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Full text of "eartrip_magazine"

eartrip 

issue 4 -august 





Ren 




& Melidown Fesiiual 



The Second EaiinuMPa CempDaUonAiDi^B 



iWmM 
John Russell Intenrlew 
Reviews 
Articles 

enncisin 



CONTENTS 



Editorial 1 

By David Grundy. 

second journey: eartrip compilation number two 3 

A second supplementary collection of improvised performances from another diverse bunch of 
musicians. Featured this time are: Peter Breslin, J.A. Deane, David Grundy, Daniel Larwood, Lee 
Noyes, Dennis Bathory-Kitsz, Massimo Magee, Lycanthrope Oboe, Parallax and STEK. 

Paul Desmond (Part Two) 4 

Dr Martin Luther Blisset continues the tale of Braxton and of Desmond, of wind chimes and of organs, 
of crises and of unexpected encounters. 

Some Thoughts on 'Extremity' in Free Improvisation 14 

Speculative musmgs on creative processes and purposes. By David Grundy. 

Headphonica: Label Overview 16 

A look at some of the myriad releases on net-label Headphonica, from off -kilter pop songs to spacious 
free improvisation, electronic experimentation and exploratory ambient textures. By David Grundy 

An interview with John Russell 26 

One of the leading lights on the contemporary British free improvisation scene, guitarist John Russell 
to make fascinating music and is also an important organizer: his Mopomoso evenings, currently held 
at the Vortex in London, provide vital opportunities for old combinations to pick up the conversation 
where they left off, and for new groupings to generate new creative sparks. This interview covers his 
many projects over the years, including collaborations with Japanese free jazz musicians such as 
Toshinori Kondo, and the creative processes behind his playing. Interview by David Grundy. 

You Tube Watch 34 

Videos from the Sun Ra Arkestra, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Eric Dolphy, and more. 

CD Reviews 40 

Including: Trevor Watts, Jon Hassell, Weasel Walter and Sunn O))). Reviewed by Nick Dart, David 
Grundy, Sandy Kindness and Oscar Lomas. 

Gig Reviews 87 

Reports on Omette Coleman's Meltdown, The Convergence Quartet's UK tour, and the 2009 Vienne 
Jazz Festival. By David Grundy and Ian Thumwood. 

List of Contributors 96 



EDITORIAL 




Sadly, this editorial has to open with news of 
another death - no, not Michael Jackson's, that 
of bassist Hugh Hopper. I guess the interview I 
conducted with him for Issue 2 may have been 
the last he gave, so maybe that will serve for 
tribute. There's also a review of the re-issue of 
his album 'Hopper Tunity Box' in this edition 
of 'eartrip'; on that album and on many others 
can be found the evidence of a spirit of 
adventure that continued right up to the end; 
along with fellow Soft Machine musicians like 
Elton Dean, he demonstrated the ability to mix 
experimentation with a genuine popular appeal, 
without compromise. 



In any case. Issue 4 is now here, and as well as all the usual reviews and 
articles it's accompanied by a second MP3 compilation - response was positive for 
the first, which went out with the previous issue, so I've put together another, again 
combining work by disparate performers in varying fields which can't easily be 
bracketed under any one heading, but which share a spirit of adventure and 
exploration that - 1 think - outweighs the chance that the risks taken won't pay off 
Hopefully the eartrip compilation can become a regular thing: if anyone reading this 
has recordings they'd like to see on the next one, please email or post them to the 
addresses at the bottom of the editorial. It'd be great if I could continue to get a 
diverse selection of material, to showcase artists both better and less-known. 

Other news, other thoughts: the re-appearance of the Freedom of the City 
festival this year, at a new venue after the stalwart back-room of the Red Rose pub 
decided to close the improv side of affairs, is surely cause for celebration, and the 
combination of veteran British improvisers such as Steve Beresford and Evan Parker 
with younger guests from abroad such as cellist Okkyung Lee makes it just as great a 
space for experimentation as ever. 

Interviewee for this issue, John Russell, continues to make his Mopomoso 
nights a fine space for numerous combinations - a place to hear both established 
artists - Russell, Evan Parker, John Butcher, Phil Minton - and exciting new players 
such as multi-reedist Shabaka Hutchings. Russell's link with film-maker Helen Petts, 
who uploads high-quality videos of most Mopomoso performances onto youtube 
(Petts' channel can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/user/helentonic ). enables 
dissemination among aficionados who aren't able to make it to London on a regular 
basis, as well - perhaps - as reaching a wider audience. What's so exciting about this 
sort of development is that it at once serves a historical function - that of archiving 
musically important work which would otherwise be lost - and documents continuing 
development and activity, activity which doesn't look like stopping anytime soon. 

Given this, and given that the section in which I select highlights from the 
numerous jazz and improv videos available on youtube has now become a regular 
feature of the magazine, it's hard not to escape the conclusion that the possibilities of 
internet video sites - and youtube in particular - really are a good thing, much as I 
hate to sound like a spokesman for big business and the shiny corporate face of new 



technologies. I think the issue is one of working with the tools available - it's what 
free improvisation and jazz have always done; the only way to avoid continual slaps- 
in-the-face from those not impressed by the importance of such music is to get out 
there and make it known. 

Take Philadelphia-based percussionist Toshi Makihara's 'Solo 365 Project' 
( http://www.youtube.com/user/Solo365Project ). in which he records a 10-minute solo 
every day - usually with minimal instrumentation, maybe one element of his drum kit 
(often a snare) and a few sticks or brushes - and uploads it to the channel set up for 
the purpose. The object here is not produce 365 gleaming jewels, 365 bona-fide great 
works of art, but to showcase process, work and dedication, to enable viewers to truly 
participate in the process of making a music that engages with faculties both 
emotional and mental, on so many levels. Gimmicky as it might risk being, the fact 
unfortunately remains that it's this very gimmick that will probably attract most 
interest, and perhaps draw some converts out of those who were initially merely 
curious. 

In any case, new converts or no new converts, it's a fascinating project and yet 
another example of the creative use of technology beyond arts council application 
write-ups for grand- sounding but ultimately hollow gallery projects, and beyond the 
flirtation with the easier elements of electronic music used to spice up otherwise 
utterly banal pop-jazz . When dealing with a music that demands utter engagement 
and which uniquely rewards it, it's important that such music doesn't become 
cloistered away into an irrelevance, even as it's important that it doesn't became 
tainted or watered-down. The latter point is not an assault on necessary pragmatism - 
where would this music be without ventures such as Incus records and the tireless 
man-hours put into tasks such as publicity, promotion, and the like? - nor is it an 
avocation of a po-faced hermiticism. The challenge is to balance real and active 
engagement with the modern world with a much-needed criticism of its more 
unsavoury aspects, to enhance and enrich the creative process and product in a mutual 
exchange of new ideas. As always, it's a struggle, but, as always, it's a worthwhile 
struggle. 

David Grundy 

The contact address is still dm grundy@,hotmail. co.uk . Get in touch with comments, positive 
or negative, offers to write for the magazine (yes, I'm still pleading for writers - tell your 
friends! have a go yourself!), and anything else you can think of The address to send review 
copies to is: 

1 7 Avenue Road 
Old Town 
Swindon 
Wiltshire 
SNl 4BZ 
(United Kingdom) 

Alternatively, I'm happy to listen to digital versions, if you're worried about postage costs. 
I'm not so bothered about the format - the music is the important thing. 



SECOND JOURNEY: EARTRIP 
COMPILATION NUMBER TWO 



second journey 

eartrip compilation # 2 




featuring: 

ETEIT 

parallax 

lee noyes 

3 . a . deane 

davld grundy 

mas si mo magee 

peter breslin 

daiiiel larwood 

lycanthrope oboe 

deiinis bathory-kitsz 



^- 






The follow-up to last issue's compilation can be downloaded from the following sites: 

• http://sharebee.com/7f30dldO 

• http://www.sendspace.com/file/mdij7j 

• http://www.mediafire.com/download.php7zzyfoikqkk3 

• http://www.archive.org/details/SecondJourneyEartripCompilation2 



The tracklist is as follows: 



1) David Grundy - Borne on the Fourth of July (excerpt) (10:00) 

2) Massimo Magee - Nature Boy (12:48) 

3) Peter Breslin/ J.A. Deane - Duo (10:09) 

4) STEK - Chapter 1 : Genesis (9:09) 

5) Parallax - Untitled (10:42) 

6) Lee Noyes/Dennis Bathory-Kitsz - Wooden Kind (9:29) 

7) Lycanthrope Oboe - Wolf Shop (excerpt) (13:12) 

8) Daniel Larwood - Ambient Improvisation (5:04) 



PAUL DESMOND (Part Two) 

By Dr Martin Luther Blisset 




a discographical curiosity 

Dave Brubeck: 'All The Things We Are' 
Atlantic SD1684 (LP) also: Rhino 1684 (CD) 



1. In Your Own Sweet Way (Brubeck) [7:39] 

2. All The Things You Are (Jerome Kern / Oscar Hammerstein) [7:27] 



Anthony Braxton (as) Dave Brubeck (p) Jack Six (b) Roy Haynes (d) Lee Konitz (as) on #2 



1974 - October 3 C.L Studios 
New York, NY (USA) 



"All that is solid melts into air.." 

Paul Desmond (sopranino, alto & tenor saxophones, flute, bass flute, wooden flute, 
sopranino clarinet, whistle, bells, gongs, percussion), looked with one weary eye out over the 
city. The grey morning hordes bleary and dreary milled in the streets below like cockroaches 
between the tall office blocks and takeaway sandwich shops. All in grey, all in grey. Fog was 
slowly lifting from along the river, stone structures emerging from the milky air. Steam 

billowing somewhere, white on dirty white. All those people caught up in the grey rites of 
work. Joyless automatic bustle. White stone churches, pinkgrey marbled glass and steel 
towers. "All that is solid melts into air..." talking to himself again. Another night in another 

fleabag hotel in some depressed city, Europe, or the East Coast... 

Cranking the window open and wedging it in place with his sopranino case, he put 
the Bb bamboo to his lips and blew. Closing his eyes he felt the reverberation, the waves of 
sound bouncing back from the slick glass surfaces, from the polished stone, from ancient 
unclean brickwork; a vibration low and raw, every atom of the air and stone and steel 

dancing, glowing in the golden light behind his eyes, the dark light behind the light. The walls 
of a hundred banks and insurance offices crumble, fast food chains and cruddy bistros shake 

and warp, plate glass buckles, twangs, shatters. ..FUCKING PURE MAYHEM. 

Sound erasing text from newspaper/splintered city crest/dragon at the gates of 
Holborn/all municipal icons shattered/polystyrene bathos of dropped coffee carry- 
outs/abandoned cars crushed by falling bells... 

"Honey, I'm home.." 

mrs desmond serves the tea 

so i'm sitting in this living room sinking into the soft sofa, this place sure as hell is 
one million miles away from the life i'm living, why can't braxton play good stuff like old paul 
used to? we could be living it up a little. 

the broad returns with a tray, she gives me the sweetest smile and the sun from the 
hallway catches her curl of blond hair and i swear for a moment there i get a lunge of some 
very pleasant feelings, "well" i figure to myself, she's not at all bad for an old dame, and 
besides i'm getting very little action these days what with the way lorretta's acting up lately 
and goddam braxton sprawled all over the joint all hours of the day and night." 

anyways i'm sipping on this tea stuff, which [it has to be said] is pretty disgusting, so 
i ladel about a ton of sugar in and i'm trying to explain what i'm doing there, which isn't easy, 
being as how i don't actually have a clue what i am doing here. 

"Excuse me mister Veinugum. I dont mean to be rude. But where did you say you 
knew my husband from? Are you a musician yourself, mister Veinugum?" 

She falters, lowers his face and blushes. 

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be grilling you. I'm sorry. I'm being rude. It's just. I'm not 
really used to recieving visitors. Or at least, not alone. Usually Paul takes care of." 

She breaks off again and looks awfully distressed. She looks around a dozen places in 
this little room, then sips her tea. Well it's good to see this god awful drink has some use. 

"No really missis D." I start straight in with the missis D. I'm guessing it's a bit out of 
order with her, but it's not gonna get me thrown out. Jeez I'm gonna shake this bitch up. "No 
really missis D it's me should be apologising busting in here and all. It's just I've been hearing 
all these stories lately that are, frankly, disturbing. To say the least. You know me and Paul 
go back a long way and he's a nice guy. One of the few genuine nice guys on the scene. And 
I dont like it missis D. Is he in some kind of trouble?" 

"I'm really sorry mister veinegem I should have recognised your name. It's just. He 
never mentioned you, I dont think. Or maybe I've just forgotten. There's been a lot to 
contend with lately." This broad's close to breaking point. 

"Aw no, really. In a way, I'm from another time in Paul's life. Another place. I dont 
really fit into his current set up in anyway. But we were close. Not so long ago. He was also 



really kind to me. Helped me out of a few jams. Gripes, he was like a father in a way." At this 
point I turn on the distressed routines and follow up with a nervous sip of tea, whilst I regain 
my composure. Strange thing is though - 1 am a bit distressed. Christ almighty. I never even 
met the guy. "Missis D I'm here to help in whatever way I can," I do my best very concerned 
look straight into her eyes. Dames are a synch. "Is it drugs?" 

"Oh no. No." 
She straightens out the front of her skirt with a few swift strokes of her palm. Sips her tea. 

"A woman?" 

"Oh no. Not exactly." 

"I'm sorry to be pressing you missis D, but if Paul's in some kind of trouble, then I 

need to know what it is we're dealing with here." 
Now I'm some cop out of a movie or something. 

"It's music, mister vangreim. You should know, it's always music with Paul. Always 

has been." 
There's a hint of rancour in her manner now. She gets up and puts cups and saucers ont the 
tray, cleans away in general. "I'm sorry mister vaneegrus, I'm being awfully rude. Would you 
like more tea, or perhaps," she flicks a glance at the clock on the shelf, " somenthing a little 
stronger?" She looks at the liquor cabinet. She licks her bottom lip, her tongue suddenly large 
and rude, out in the open. Did I just imagine this? Has this tea got some kinda halucinegic 
properties. The demure missis D returns and leave the room with her tray. 

When she returns she's got the tray all full up with all the tea stuff again. Soon she's 
got the stuff served, I'm sipping my tea and she's doing the same. Leaving a red lipstick stain 
on the rim of her cup and smiling at me with those very red lips. I smile back and readjust 
my sitting position. 

"Do you have a girl mister.. .Say, do you have a first name, only, being as how, well 
you know." 

"Sure," I say, then - quick as a flash I say, "Richie." Fuck, what a sweet name. 

"Richie," she says, like she's trying it on for size, which is what I'm doing too. "Do 

you have a girl Richie?" 
"Yes missis D I have me a swell girl. I've been seeing her for some time. Yeah she's some girl 
I tell you. She gives me hell missis D. You know, nagging me all the time. Probably mostly for 
my own good. Like for instance, she keeps telling me, 'Rau Richie,' she says. 'Richie baby. 
She always calls me baby. Which is kind of annoying, but sweet too. If you know what I 
mean. 'Richie baby you should just unwind from time to time. You know, take some time out. 
Stop all the time tryna achieve, you know? Cool out' I say to her, 'Loretta you're crazy. I dont 
do anything much. I'm a bum baby.' But she wont listen." I shrug & sip my bourbon. Christ. 
What's going on here? Am I in therapy? Have I lost all memory? Is this the lunatic asylum? 

"She sounds like a nice girl Richie. I think she must love you a lot." 

"Uh yeah. Sure. Yes. I mean." 

"I expect you're very fond of her Richie." 
"Oh jeepers. Yes. Oh I am. I love her a lot. Once I get things settled, with my life and all, 
well I'm hoping we'll settle down and you know," I dont know where in Christ's name all this 
mush is coming from, but I crack on, aware all the while, of this warm treacle sort of feeling 
spreading in my stomach. "And do you know, missis D?, then I think I probably will, slow 
down, cool it, like Lorretta says." I'm feeling myself warm up and slown down. I sip the tea 
and nibble at one of the biscuits I've somehow ended up cradling in my palm. "Well here's to 
life." I toast missis D, lifting the delicate little cup off its saucer. 

What the fuck am I going on about? Missis D's looking quite put out, looking 
everywhere but at me. I also realise, there's tears in her eyes. 

"Well hell missis D, that's enough about little ole me. I came here to see you and to 
see what I could do for Paul, and, for you. I really dont like to see what's going on with Paul, 
mister desmond, your husband and you missis D. Look, tell me to butt out and mind my own 
business if you like, but, well missis D, I wanna know what's going on here. And I just wanna 
how I can help. That's all." 



The Big Old House on Cape Cod 

"What do you call that stuff?" 

"Back home we called it Angel Hair. We'd have to go in there and pull it out, it would 
grow so thick it'd block up the stream, choke the fishes." 

"I let 'em go y'know, my goldfish, so I could concentrate on the music, they wuz 
distractin me from my algebra studies.." 

But Marilyn was getting tired: "Oh Anthony, why must you play such shit, why can't 
you do something that people can enjoy??" 

Braxton shuffles his suede boots, scratches his head, and, whilst tapping out his pipe 
on a fencepost, mumbles in a ludicrously affected Oklahoma accent: "Lissen, Marilyn, most 
record labels, they won't let ya play tha real music. They want ya t' play pure ol' bull manure 
an' nothin' else. So i can't never git ahold of money an' all that stuff it'd take t' keep you an' 
me in a little ol' house an' home - I'd be a-lyin' to my own self if n I said I didn't want no little 
house an' all... but I have this feelin' just gimme some time an' I can put the sounds together 
that's in mah head.. " 

Marilyn had started piano lessons at seven at the Peabody Music School in Baltimore. 
She later studied piano and composition at the New England Conservatory in Boston but 
abandoned music for marriage and medical work in 1969. She returned to the music world six 
years later, moving to Cape Cod after a divorce and being introduced to the sound of John 
Coltrane. That summer Marilyn attended Karl Berger's Creative Music Studio. It was here that 
she first met, played for and with, and was eventually recruited by saxophonist/thinker 
Anthony Braxton to play in his quartet. 

"I had been improvising since I was 14 basically because I was composing and I 
would improvise in order to get ideas," she says in a comfortable, unhurried voice. "It was 
really through listening to the music of John Coltrane that I got into improvisation. At the 
time I was living with someone on Cape Cod who had a wonderful contemporary jazz record 
collection, and I started listening to it, and that's when Braxton turned up. I would have to 
say it woke me up out of a musical stupor that I had been in ever since I had graduated from 
the Conservatory. Braxton had been listening to all kinds of music, Stockhausen, jazz, 
everything— since he was young," Crispell says. "Anthony's a real sweet guy, you know, a 
kind of puppy dog, but basically, I realise now, he's a nut." 

The sun was setting, silvery and low over the sand dunes. They turned and headed 
back towards the old house, Braxton trailing slightly, keeping to the edge of the stream, 
sometimes tramping absently through stiff reeds and clumps of sea grass. 

That evening they sat out on the porch listening to some tapes of rare Dylan stuff 
Anthony had brought in his duffelbag, the clanking guitar and whining harmonica drifting out 
over the salt marsh. Stubs of candles in jamjars flickered like fireflies ... 

"Just what is it you want, Anthony? - 1 mean you follow me around like a puppy, but 
you won't say anything, except in that ridiculous bob dylan voice..." 

inside the mind of joe morello? 

Frankly, Morello/Moreno's mind was a fucken mess... 

Here he was in a grass skirt & tie-dyed shirt doing the friggin' hula while old Brubeck 
comps away at the electric organ & the punters shunt dimes into the slot machines. They 

bicker, knock back the drink, scratch their butts... 

Christ that 32 bar chorus seemed to go on forever: He puts down the maraccas &. 
swings the blue plasticated electric banjo into position 

TWANG... 

In a faux-hawaiian accent he begins to sing phonetically from the illegible beer- 
soaked song sheet: 



"oh me daughter are sweet 

she gimme 'nother call 

living front down, 

any however sea hurt 

me grandfather become rising 

pretty hot happiness 

please home, a-hula hula hula 

she's handsome eyes spirits? 

she loose since wild difficulty, 

brother necessary school air 

she dropped field tried 

object wanted? 

door girls worthy journey, 
ba-doo ba-doo ba-dooba 

ago more sit evening find 

however stayed weird story 

without threw tea 

what top stories leaving 

barely people end 

passing object friends colour.." 

...the banjo & organ trading a few bars of fours at the end. He notices Brubeck 
throws in a few quotes from 'Camptown Races' &. the like... a smattering of disinterested 

applause & it's all over for the night. 

"You know, Moreno, I think the folks like it" - Brubeck sweating and flushed with 

pleasure pours another scotch in the dressing room. 

COMING NE>CT: THE BRUBECK DUO WAIKIKI-HULA-CHRISTMAS SPECIAL 

Pandora's Box 

Wednesday night and business had been bad. Roger Skerman shuffled the small 

mound of scraps of paper on his desk and began to think about closing up shop. 

"Hmmm, maybe I'll reduce those Wordsworth Classics & put them outside with the 
yellowing westerns tomorrow... " 

All through Clifton the bells were ringing & snow drifted gently through pink &. green 
neon air. The girl with orange hair was still mooching around over at the poetry shelves, 
occasionally glancing up from beneath her fringe. A bit like Louise Brooks maybe. Was it the 
same girl who'd been in the front row the other night at the arthouse cinema? 

Our Little Musical Family... 



'Rock-a-hula Christmas - huh one huh two..' 
CHANK CHANK CHANK CHANK 



The revolving stage brings Brubecl< into view under tiie mirrorball. Sparkling light 
spills from his white white teeth, from his whiter than white tuxedo. Snowstorm of white hair 
and dandruff. Grass skirt parting to reveal knotted turkey-legs, the pale hairs on his bristling 
knees transformed into silver thread. ..Over on the banjo Moreno bites down hard on his 
denture, already consumed by sweats of mortification. The tourists and slotsters look up 

briefly, irritated by the intrusion. 

'Thank you ladies and gentlemen it's so wonderful to be here sharing this special time 
of year with you all.' Brubeck mugs from the baby grand. This isn't half so bad as he'd 
feared. Okay, so a few compromises had to be made with the repertoire, like no jazz stuff 
forinstance, but hell, a guy can live with that. There's more to life than improvisation. He'd 
always thought the tricksy time-stuff was the stong point anyway, and Moreno was working 
out well on the banjo, fitting in all the fiddly beats he used to play on the drums. Admittedly 
no one seemed to be listening, but these Vegas audiences were notoriously cool, and the 

money was strong enough. 

'We'd like to continue on with a little ditty entitled Sleigh-Ride, arranged by my 

worthy constituent Mister Joe Morello - a-one-and-two-a-and-a-three-four-a-five-and...' 

CHANK CHANKA-CA-CHANK 

"Oh its-a lovely weather for a sleigh ride-uh together..." 

Through gritted teeth Moreno spits out the words, blinded by the sweat pouring from 
beneath his rapidly slipping hairpiece. The humiliation! (worse than that time in his sister's 
room when mom got home early from the store...) Jesus, how did i get myself into this 

mess... 

The glossy black carapace of his toupe floats adrift, plops like inky squid muck at his 
feet. "AND NOW WE ARE SO HAPPY LADIES-AN-GENNELMEN TO WELCOME BACK FOR ONE 
NIGHT ONLY TO OUR LITTLE MUSICAL FAMILY THE ONE-AN-ONLEEEEE... THE 

WONDERFUL, MISTER PAUL DESMOND!!!" 

Through kaleidoscopic lights & smoke effects, a banshee wail sears the air. A 
hunched figure in soiled loincloth and sharkstooth beads slouches from the wings. Moreno, 
aghast, loses the beat, staggers, slips on the sopping wig. Electric banjo emitting blue sparks. 
Brubeck dancing like a fried chicken, corpse-wax features illuminated by wild elecricity. The 
slot machines fall silent. Fat matrons slacken their girdles; emaciated trailer trashesses fling 
damp thongs, nylon panties, the occasional liberty-bodice, & a hail of room-keys at the slight 

& balding satyr who now occupies centre stage. 

Caught up in a frenzy of feedback from the wet banjo and overheated wurlitzer, his 
ears addled by the wall of sound from the amplifiers & the saxophone's primal screams, 
Moreno begins to beat his fists on the piano lid, thrashing out an anarchic seven-twelve 
tattoo... 

An orgy of violent noise ensues. The terrified but libidinally-charged crowd panic in 
the sheer force of volume. Bewildered finalists from the 'Miss Nude Amerikkka' contest on the 

second floor stagger blindly on stilettoes through the throng ... 

Backstage, Brubeck is less than happy: "Fuck it Morello, the plan was we all gather 
round the tree at the end & sing a few carols, remember." 



joe morello had a dirty secret, one day when he was fourteen years old he'd snuck into his 
sister nancy's room & tried on some of her lacy aromatic underthings. 



"what about the kid with the crutches, boss?" 

"yeah, he's confirmed, and the agency managed to whip up a coupla wheelchair cases too, 

from the orphanage.." 

"that's when i come out with the santy-claws gear & the bag a presents too, right?" 

"you got it joe, then we all gather round the tree at the end, okay, ?" 



10 



Paul Desmond Waits (part 2) 

Paul desmond waits backstage. From the wings he watches the comedian is winding 

up the crowd. A big buildup, and Brubeck's on, with Morelio on the banjo. For God's Sake! 

Christmas song; hamming it up for the punters, the penny-shunters. 

& What on earth has Brubeck done to his teeth? Heavens above, we were like THAT, 

me & Dave. I blame Morelio. I only wish I'd never played them that godawful Take Five 
nonsense. Before that at least we were a jazz band. 

All that pleading on the phone, & thru intermediaries &. agents. PLEASE PLEASE 
PLEASE Paul, come back & do this one gig, Xmas Special, It'll be like the old times, the good 
times... YEAH... 

"Take the ribbon from your hair, shake it loose and let it fall..." 
Moreno gurns into the microphone. Voice like bad breath. Clank clank on the banjo. Wurlitzer 
WURLITZER!!!! like death parlor organ. Suddenly it's time, Brubaker's at the mic: 

"...MISTER PAUL DESMOND!" 
Cripes! Here goes then. Let's hope nobody's here from downbeat this time... 

"yeah cape cod, sure, all them years ago." 

"yeah cape cod, sure, so many years ago." he stops his meandering memories and 
taps Nightly on the the door, "seven years, since she's seen anyone. Anyone other than me. 
Christ." He steps in out of the vestibule. 

"There's a man in your stairwell. Who is he?" 

"How the fuck should i know? I think he's pretty much always there these days." 

They walk the short cluttered shadowy distance of her entrance hall. 

"Can't we make a call and get rid of him?" 

"What's the point? Besides, I've grown dependant upon his presence to be honest. I 

dunno what i'd do if he wasn't there." 
Entering the living room, he takes in the customary squalor, the reams of written manuscript 
paper over almost every surface, her piano, with just the middle two octaves free of paper, a 

thick book, covering the bass keys. 

"We've had an offer of a gig." 

"What's the fee?" 

"A main course if we do one set, a sweet or starter if we do two." 

"What's on the menu?" 

"Pasta mostly. It's a venue above a pasta house." 

"Sst." 

"They want you back baby." 

"yeah but i dont want them." 

She sits at the piano stool. There's no other seating in the room, so he stands. 

"How's the snow doing?" 

"It's holding out pretty much. It's still fairly white and crisp. Even on the roads." 

"Even the roads?" 

"It just keeps falling. Pretty heavy too." 
He glances at the heavy drapes in the window. 

"It'd be good to perform the new songs, surely?" 



11 



"Fuck the new songs, they're not worth a piss." 

"Christ," he thinl<s, "Bob Dylan never wrote about a real woman in his goddam life". 
He puts down the thick wad of manuscript papers he'd picked up from her desk. They settle 
back into the dust and mess like a child returning to the bedclothes after being woken by a 
parent in the middle of the night. "I still have the photographs. Maybe we should release 
them soon. He lodges on the edge of her desk. Bits of paper fall to the ground. She remains 

still at her stool, looking down at the floor, at nothing. 

"No. There's no point." 

"Come on, those photos are our no. 1 weapon. If all else has failed, these will not." 

"We have nothing. It's too late now. We've missed our timing. Forget it. We're lost." 



Could this really be the same woman, who'd been so empassioned, who'd wanted 
him to achieve so much, when he was hiding out with his music and his chess and his Dylan 
albums? He crashes back from his Cape Cod memories as she hits one note on the keyboard, 

then dampens it with her left toe. 

"Christ angel, it's not that bad. You just need to get out a little. Let's do the gig. Get 
some of the new songs out there. It'll give you perspective honey. You've been in this 

goddam hole too long." 

"Perhaps you'd better go now huh?" 

"Go?" 

"Go. Leave. Just leave me a while, please." 
He glances at the door and then back at her, but doesn't move. 

"Leave me a little time to think it over, yeah?" 

"Ok sure. How long?" 

"How long?" 

"Fer chrissakes. Come on." 

"No. Tuesday." 

"A whole fuckin week. No. Not this time." 

"Tuesday. Two weeks. I don't wanna be sworn at next week." 

"Fer fucksake. You can't just expect the whole world to keep waiting on you forever." 

"No one's waiting." 
He jumps to his feet, ready to leave the room or explode. She stays sitting. 

"I'm not asking anyone to wait. There is nothing to wait for." 

She looks up at the door as it slams shut. She reaches for her pen & fresh manuscript paper. 

In the lobby he stands counting the white floor tiles. "Twenty six times thirty one 
equals eight hundred and six. He does the same for the black ones. He catches a glimpse of 
movement in the stairwell, reaches into his coat pocket and leans imperceptibly left, toward 
the stairs, ready to explode. Ready to betray her. Then he rights himself and heads for the 
lift. At the ground floor he pauses, thinking again of the man upstairs, tempted to approach 

him calmly and offer whatever they want to know; give her up. 

Outside, the snow is thicker and whiter still. Nothing or no one moves on the streets. 
He thinks of his boots like those of the first man on the moon. "Should've sent a woman," he 
tells himself. "Should have sent a goddam toad." 

WHEN HE DESCENDED FROM THE GODDAM MOUNTAIN TOP 

WHEN HE DESCENDED FROM THE MOUNTAIN TOP HE WAS CLUTHCHING HIS 



12 



ERECT MEMBER, SAYING UNTO THE MULTITUDES "GO FUCK LIKE CRAZY ALL THE TIME. 
LET'S FUCK. EVERYBODY LET'S FUCK. IF YOU CAN'T FIND A MEMBER USE A WOODEN PEG. 

LET'S FUCK." 

oh Christ, lemme out of here baby, you got any bourbon stashed under that grass 

skirt or are you just glad to see me? 

"TAKE OFF WITH ME HONEYCHILD. THIS IS THE LUST TO END ALL LUSTS." 

oh fuck. 

"WE ARE THE FORGOTTEN SONS OF OUR FATHER'S SINS. WE LIVE INSIDE THE 

CHAMBERS OF OUR OWN HOLOCAUST. LUST WILL SET US FREE." 

jesus fuckin Christ you goddam lunkhead, listen, let's get this straight i could be 
anywhere i wanna be right now. you got that? any goddam where, get me some goddam 
bourbon, give me some goddam money, you got me stuck here in this goddam signal box. 
I'm not used to this kind of shit.what ever happenned to the hotel suites? even the fucking 
motels were better than this peice sewerage pipe, i used to earn good money i tell you and it 
was not hard work, let me tell you that, but i gave it up to be with you honey, i thought you 

really were someone. 

"LUST WILL TAKE US TO THE HEAVENLY CHAMBERS. WE WILL TEAR DOWN THE 
WALLS OF NON-LUST AND WILL SHALL RIP APART THE WORLD OF ALL ELSE AND OTHERS." 



"uh, honey cakes, what's all my awards doing out?" 

i got em out. what d'you think? i put em up. sure yeah, why not. you used to be 
someone, pretty face, look at these, 'downbeat- musician of the year, metronome - reed 
player of the year, classical musician - composer of other musics.' these are something baby. 

you told me you had money too. 

"uh honey cakes, what are these hung on exactly?" 

nails 

"nails honey cakes?" 

nails and string, for crying out loud, this aint the point. 

"where d'you get nails and string from darling angel?" 
listen you fuckin faggot, i can get string, i can get nails, if i want em. why am i 
always itching these days, have you given me some kind of fuckin disease, i never got a 

single disease in my life. 

"LUST WILL BRING DOWN THE BANKS, THE FREEWAYS, THE POVERTY OF THE 

THIRD WORLD, THE MOUNTAINS OF BABLON." 

shut the fuck up. listen you fuckin moron, you been having a wail of a time down 
here where now i'm goddam itching, and where the fuck's this getting either of us? huh? ok, i 
phoned your goddam bank manager, 'hello, mister brinksmatt, yes mister brinksmatt, i'm so 
sorry to trouble you, i know you must be a busy man and all. it's missis desmond mr 
brinksmat and i know you shouldn't really do this for me, but you know paul's been away and 
i'm just so worried, anyway, what mr brinksmat tells me you shitcake, is there is no goddam 
money in your account anymore, so what's been going on? you promised me this whole 
signal box thing was just temporary, and now what? you tell me. what the fuck have you 

spent our money on? 

"uh well, chimes, i guess, mostly, and this signal box of course." 
you bought this fuckin thing you cretinous piece of poodle shit? you dont need to buy 
things like this, we can just live here, like we already are. who the hell's gonna know about 

it? "oh i couldn't do that. no. i traced the owners, the east coast railway line company, i 

bought it outright." he beamed with pride. 

THIS USED TO BE SOME NICE PLACE TO BE BEFORE YOU CAME ALONG AND 



13 



SCREWED rr UP, IF YOU DONT MIND MY SAYING SO. 

One hundred and twenty seven chimes hung in the windows of the signal box. But 

not one of the windows opened, so they rarely moved on a breeze. 

He bought wind chimes whenever he saw them. Thrift stores were a good source. All 
kinds of shapes. Many of them fake oriental. Bamboos. Cheap metal, painted all kinds of 
colours. Sea shells. One had the letters & M stuck to the handle. Tiny little shells, spelling 

out the word "om". Most clanked &. clinked with little or no real chiming quality to them. 

At night he'd stand at the open door and blow faint whiffs of sound from his tiniest 
bamboo flute. "Music to make the walls fall down," he whispered to himself. Then he'd come 
inside and set off the chimes, pressing his ear up close to the tinkling and clanking. Then he'd 
look out, pulling aside the curtain of chimes. But nothing would be changed. All the buildings 
and all the lights remained, undaunted by the butterfly tremors he'd sent forth at them. Car 
lights just like diamonds in the night. He could hear the boats in the harbour. "One day it's all 
come crashing down," he'd whispered as he drifted off to sleep in his duck down sleeping bag 
on the wooden floor. "Guess I'm gonna have to move into the heart of the city. Get a little 

room or something, right in the midst of the traders and money lenders." 

At the end of his nightly flute & chime ritual he'd strip himself naked & then set off 
the monster chime, made of broken glass & thick long bamboo lengths, hanging in the 
middle of the room. Braxton had collected these bamboos from Cape Cod. Six foot lengths of 
the stuff strewn on the beach. Strong plastic rope fixing bright flags of nylon fabric at the tops. 

"What are these things doing on the beach there anyway Braxie?" 

"Shucks brother I dunno. Ah reckon they come from the lobster pots. Mebbe they be 

like, markers, for the lobster men yeah?" 

"Shit Braxie what's with the accent? You been hanging out with Marilyn again?" 
"Shucks Paulio, yeah, the sad eyed lady of the lowlands herself. When you gonna lay 

off blaming her for everything you dont like old pal?" 

Later, over a game of chess, sitting at the tea chest Desmond had rigged over the 
handles of the point swithces, Braxie speaks low. A voice like candle light. "Joo ever check 
out Virginia Wolff man? Literary genius. Seriously off her rocker though. Drowned herself in a 

river. Stones in the old coat pockets. What larks!" 

Later moving into check mate, he whispers again, "you know Paul, I dont think 

anyone's even begun to consider the full musical potential of bamboo." 

For days afterward, Desmond would work on the lengths of bamboo Braxie had 
brought him. He'd cut them up with his junior hacksaw and build onto the monster chime, 
the aroma of his sweat mingling with the residual odour of Braxie's pipe smoke that clung 

seaping into the signal box like rain falling into a parched field. 

MEANWHILE IN A WASHINGTON LOFT 

he listens to the tape over and over, he know each grunt and sigh, each squelch and 
rustle of sheets on skin - all of it, by heart, it's as if these sounds were the notes to a familiar 
tune, but he is no closer to tracing you. his hunger is now beyond the proffessional. he burns 
with the insatiable need to find you. "when i do find you, I'll fuckin anihalate you, you bitch" 
he hisses to himself as he listens again to the tape, but in reality he knows he's never gonna 
see you again, no one has seen you in seven years. 

(TO BE CONTINUED...) 



14 



SOME THOUGHTS ON 'EXTREMITY' IN 
FREE IMPROVISATION 

By David Grundy 

A couple of months ago I played a freely improvised gig at which our regular 
group was joined by a couple of guests. Three pieces were played: a duo set by our 
guests, a set by our group, and then a final, longer piece where everyone came 
together. It was that last piece which gave rise to the thoughts collected below. 

I particularly enjoyed the way it differed from those that preceded it, the way 
the rustlings and loops and sparser textures which had been the domain of the duo 
became part of a denser texture, a more 'orchestral' approach. I don't mean this in the 
sense of 'playing together' (tutti) or even in terms of loudness (though the volume 
does have a lot to do with this 'orchestral' perception, I expect), as much as I mean a 
thickness of group texture, an overall impact made of its constituent parts. 

This is true of most improv - but it's easier to pick up the interweaving of 
separate threads (even when complicated by the use of electronics and/or extended 
techniques which make the instruments less easily identifiable) in smaller groups or 
'minimally oriented' larger groups. Here, by contrast, you could tell that there were 
several threads unravelling at once, generally going in the same general direction (it's 
hard to play quiet breathy sounds, for example, when everyone else is blasting the 
place with clusters and shrieks and feedback), but it's that general direction that's 
important. 

This isn't so much like improvisations shaped by 'conductions' (where the 
conductor acts as a kind of instant composer, setting up different groupings and 
setting them off against each other, or with each other) but is a spontaneously- 
generated structure which makes its own logic as it develops, which has even less pre- 
thought than a 'conduction' . A lot of this may be due to the fact that we had not 
rehearsed together before-hand (apart from a sporadic sound-check which can't have 
lasted more than five minutes altogether). That said, the duo and the improvising 
group are in some sense 'rehearsed' groups, ongoing concerns in their separate 
manifestations; in other words, the performance brought together two groups of 
players with a history of playing together as separate groups, but not as one large 
ensemble. Of course, one might argue that every 'rehearsal' constitutes an actual 
performance, rather than a preparation for any grand gesture - it is all part of a 
continuum, or at least, an ongoing investigation, which may contradict its different 
manifestations on separate occasions - thus, the notion of a 'group sound' will be a 
complicated one. 

In any case, this 'un-rehearsed' feel particularly struck me. For the 
aforementioned reasons, one could say that it was the 'most improvisational' of the 
three sets- bringing to mind Derek Bailey's liking for unusual and unprepared 
collaborations (of course, the risk here is greater, but the rewards are perhaps greater 
too, the old platitude). 

Anyway, I mentioned the 'orchestral' approach, and I think I'm just feeling 
out for words to classify the particular feeling and impact of that particular set, 
although, in the more loudly 'intense' performances I've been involved in - most 
recently, a recreation of Dante's inferno - I've tended to get a similar 'vibe'. Maybe 
'orchestral' isn't quite right, maybe I want to say 'extreme' - but then of course there 
are many different shades and manifestations of 'extremity' - and I fully realise that 



15 



often when I've remembered a performance as 'extreme', actually I've just selectively 
remembered the 'peaks', which may only have lasted for short periods, and somehow 
forgotten more than half of what actually happened. 

Aside: That's why listening back to recordings has become so much a part of 
my playing - not as 'instruction' or just 'reference' but as a kind of genuine 
rediscovery of what happened, a reliving which I would characterise as 
'improvisational listening' (isn't that what all listening always is, to some extent, even 
when you know a composed piece well, even if you're listening to the same recording 
for the twentieth time?). That's not to say that it doesn't trigger off memories of 
playing certain things (though sometimes there are things I hear on the recordings 
which I just do not remember happening, which I do not remember participating in). 
Hopefully it encourages newness; if I can hear myself repeating ideas in several 
recordings I'll try and actively seek out other approaches, ways of avoiding getting 
stuck in the groove of the endlessly-repeating universal long-playing record. 

Returning to my main topic, if we call the 'impulse' I was discussing before 
'extremity', could we also call it 'drama'? Should we be afraid of that? Of the 
performative? The development of such music as actually rising and falling to and 
from emotional peaks and extremes? I think Mr Bailey wouldhQ suspicious, certainly 
of the term 'drama', perhaps rightly so. And I do oppose the jazz (sometimes free 
jazz) saxophone player's creation of artificial 'excitement' overtired bop vehicles or 
such like, 'screams', high notes, fast playing as shorthand for 'extreme personal 
emotion'. This emotion is both that of the player, communicated through these 
sounds, and that which this communication is supposed to incite in the audience, 
make them shout 'woooooooo' and clap and stamp their feet once the solo has 
'excited' them out, all the better for them to return to their toe-tappin' swing-along to 
the return of the familiar 'head' -the contained explosion, anticipated, expected, even 
demanded, and thus really illusory, a repeated false thrill. So the scream or high note 
or fast playing becomes a vocabulary you can 'lie' with, or convince yourself into 
believing that this vocabulary does mean, is exactly equivalent to 'emotional 
extremity', 'honesty', 'truth'. 

I want to say that this is lying, and this is bullshit, but I'm aware of how close 
it approaches to what I was actually praising in a particular kind of 'intense', 
'extreme' free improvisation. The 'true' and the 'genuine' that I can just 'feel' and 
know to be 'true' because of that. But Antonin Artaud's emphasis on 'vibrational' 
qualities to sound does chime with things free jazz musicians tend to say (think Albert 
Ayler's album title - 'Vibrations'): the snake moves to the snake-charmer's music not 
because of the mental images it produces, but because it can feel the vibrations 
through the ground, in its body. ' Music as earthquake. As explosion. Artaud wants 
theatrical gesture to be action, not cipher or representation only, wants "a gesture in a 
painting or on a stage" to correspond with "a gesture made by lava in a volcanic 
eruption." Actors 'act' - they perform 'actions' - they do 'actions', don't just give the 
appearance of doing so. Is it perhaps possible to say that free improvisers too, make 
something happen? - that they make it really happen, don't just pretend to do so. 



Antonin Artaud, 'Theatre and Cruelty', in 'The Theatre and Its Double' 



16 



Headphonica: Label Overview 

By David Grundy 




Opening the envelope: a black and white photograph of an apartment block, 
blurred shadow of a window-frame in the front, dominating the right-hand side of the 
shot; sharp perspectival swing to the tower (or the section of it that is visible) in the 



17 



centre, rimmed with a thin white outline tracing the edges of the building, half 
ghostly-aura, half child's add-on. Traces of white thumb-prints, white flecks, white 
edge of the card encroaching on the straightness of the photo's lined edges, pushing in 
from the left-hand side, as if the building might be pushed over by the weight of the 
dark grey sky - even as that sky remains depthless and flat, impenetrable or simply 
just empty, a blank screen reflecting back the nothing it faces. 

In one sense the photo is so neat and formal - the tower-block's wide white 
windows so neatly arranged in their rows and columns - but there's something more 
here than the flatness of a mimetic formalism. The composition suggests at once 
randomness and exactness, at once the imperfect glimpse, the glance round the corner 
(as something terrible approaches) and the laborious product of hours setting up. This 
might be said to sum up Headphonica as well: a net-label, founded in late 2006, 
whose entire back-catalogue I was sent along with a helpful note on the back of the 
afore-mentioned photo-card. The music they put out mixes elements of lo-fi, 
underground aesthetics with sleek, shining surfaces as flat and inscrutable as the 
photograph's blank grey sky, the simple chord patterns and formulaic vocals of 
contemporary electro-pop with the noises and bleeps and metallic sonorities of the 
avant-garde, and even jazz, on acoustic instruments. With 67 studio and 10 live 
releases, their output is impressive in terms of sheer size. Yet however tempting, 
challenging, or appropriate it might have felt to listen to every release back-to-back, 
on a paranoiac drink and drug-fuelled odyssey of music and darkness, I decided in the 
end that the Hunter S. Thompson or Lester Bangs approach was probably not best 
suited to either my current disposition or to writing that would make much sense of 
what I was confronted with. Thus, I went instead with the listen-carefully-to-selected- 
releases-and-make-detailed-notes-of-impressions-and-points-of-interest approach; so, 
while I wasn't able to make my way through all fifty hours, hopefully I've gone at 
least some way to uncovering some of the surprises and mysteries to be found in 
between the ears, on the headphonica trip. 

Mr and Mrs Brian: Richest in Cream (Headphonica 007) 

Headphonica have released 8 albums, mostly EP -length, from 'Mr and Mrs 
Brian', about whom no little information is forthcoming, apart from the fact that their 
real names are Sven Hendrik Steffens and Lasse Kanit. Their output is pretty diverse, 
from the slowed-down vocals, bursts of noise, and touches of manic exploitation- 
soundtrack-fake-organ-jazz on 'the disgusting organic theme or the proliferation of 
incarnation', to the sludge-rock of ' Y/Shmart', but centres mainly around the 
'impersonality' of beats and electronic sounds. 

Headphonica 007, 'Richest in Cream', is a series of warped sexual pop songs, 
traversing a number of styles as seems to be customary with this project, its sound- 
scapes dominated most of all by deliberately artificial-sounding keyboards. Perhaps 
its finest moment is the second track, 'foyer d' amour', whose nicely-constructed, 
catchy musical structure bolsters up the deadpan spoken-word delivery, the sound of 
someone ushering a customer into a brothel. (Given that there's no one else in the 
'space' for the man to be addressing, it would seem that the customer is the listener, 
searching for his cheap sonic thrills from his position of safety and power.) The voice 
continues, offering the customer limitless food, drink and sex; to get on in this world, 
"all that you need is your penis and cash." Such promises are delivered with the dry 
politeness of a butler or a porter, though touches of a sardonic sing-song humour 
show through the blandness, eventually exploding into the laughter of multiple voices 



that plays out over the last third of the tune - simultaneously the delighted sound of 
the customer in his paid-for paradise and the brothel bosses counting their cash. It's a 
hollow and horrible hilarity, somewhat akin to the mocking despair ushered in by the 
laughter on Gorrilaz' 'Feel Good, Inc.', and with none of the dreamy flights of fancy 
which that song offers as a contrast to the bleakness. The laughter ends, leaving one 
voice to fill out the final few seconds -a female one, the first time a woman is allowed 
a voice of her own, to be more than the object of shop-window talk ("we've got 
brown, blonde or foxy ladies - take two of them, lay in between, and cover them with 
your loving cream") a voice suggesting at once an orgasm and the sounds of tearful 
desperation, the briefest glimpse, beneath the 'groovy' exterior, of those who suffer - 
who always suffer - for the sake of the white, western man and his pursuit of endless 
pleasures. 

The rhymes in 'foyer d'amour' are childish and scatological - "but listen 
there's one important order to you: no children, no pets, no wounds and no poo" - yet 
at the same time, they're an important part of the way the track's jokey mask shows 
through the real terrors underneath. As the "important order" indicates, the brothel is 
carefully regulated (though not, it would seem, to the benefit of those who provide its 
'services'), as full of petty rules as any other institution- rules which offer comfort, 
which allow the customer to feel safe at the same time as 'letting go', pushing out 
imaginary limits and breaking the arid routines of normality while never straying off 
the demarcated path down which they're really being lead. William Blake would have 
it that "Brothels are built with bricks of religion"; in this case, the brothel seems more 
like some kind of adults-only holiday resort where flesh is brought and sold as any 
other commodity - a happy-clappy place where desires are manufactured, sold, and 
'fulfilled'. 

One might say that the impersonality on 'Richest in Cream' is that of human 
beings, blindly following their way through a world of pleasures which are ever- 
present (for a price), switching on the TV and watching blue movies, indulging in 
endless fantasies while masturbating on the hotel (or brothel) bed. Humans are 
reduced to their most basic levels, mechanically repeating actions which they pretend 
make them feel better but which only conceal an ever-widening void within and 
without, and which most often can only occur given the suffering, direct or indirect, 
of someone else. 

Mr and Mrs Brian: Oceanic Disco Bots '05 (Headphonica 008) 

The issue of impersonality is addressed even more explicitly on the next 
album in the Headphonica catalogue, 'Oceanic Disco Bots '05'. Here, the 'Brians' 
briefly allow but then deny even the nihilistic enjoyment to be found in the darker 
realms of modern beat-based dance music, and substitute for it a world of awful 
repetition, of endlessly-circling nightmare-loops, of inexorable and grinding two- 
minute Groundhog days. There's a narrative thread structuring things here (one could 
perhaps call this a 'concept album', though without the pompous grandiosity that 
implies): a cross between a cheesy sci-fi scenario to laugh at heartily through 
mouthfuls of crunching popcorn, and an actually and insidiously disturbing paranoiac 
sense of a society infiltrated by technology on every level. It's the robots. . .the 
robots. . .they're here! They're at the door! 

Each track is named after a different 'bot, or type of 'bot. There's the 
'godBOT', who seems to be ordering everyone to have a good, mindless old time, 
jerking themselves to death in some spasmodic party (this disco is so big, it's 



19 



oceanic); then his spokesman, the 'preacherBOT' who whips everyone into a further 
frenzy, the "skin over metal" of the "disco-bof given a sexual drive as the preacher 
shouts on and about the 'programmic beats' which are all that exists in this prison- 
disco (though everyone seems quite happy here, out of their mind in the annihilation 
zone, as they were even before the robots came). 

'timeBOT': the aural equivalent of an epileptic seizure in a disco where the 
strobe-lights have sped up to double-speed and won't turn off; 'magmaBOT', 
squelchy and reversed sounds like the asthmatic gasps of a monster struggling through 
the slime, minimal shrugs of low bass and the faint sounds of an oblivious drummer 
jamming in the other room. 

'partyBOT': over driving drums and bass, the sound of a phone conversation 
-a friend urges the initially disbelieving Mr Brian to check the door, and receives the 
answer he'd suspected: "you won't believe who's at my door - it's robots: an army of 
robots!" Electronically-altered voices buzz out their message over and over - "this is 
how we like to go" - the phone's automated voice reads out an error message. The 
disco bots have turned dangerous. . . . 

'deconstructionBOT', metallic bangs and crashes, mixed in with loud disco 
beats and awkward sudden silences. This is music from the era of the scratched-CD, 
the possibility for endless looping, repetition beyond imagination, sound that can exist 
indefinitely on the terms set out at it birth, that just needs one finger to set it in motion 
and then carries on and on through its eternal limbo. Kettle drums, the sound of 
dozens of war-film soundtracks and war symphonies, find themselves in new, 
technologically-advanced territory in 'warBOT', together with crackle of radio 
voices. On 'emergencyBOT', beat-boxed voices take their turn - and it's truly an 
emergency as humans too are transformed into repeating automatons (or were they 
simply that already, with only the illusion of freedom in their playground of pleasures, 
of endless 'choice'?). 

'lostBOT' : an accordion and a voice, mixed-down and surrounded by more 
clunking beats, the sound of the deadened survivor singing the same lines over and 
over as he stares into his oblivion. With 'skyBOT' we're into the world of some 
dodgy 80s TV-movie or computer game, all blaring keyboards and big beats. 
'babyBOT' ensures things end on a sinister note, looped infant chimes and whispering 
voices the nearest thing to a lullaby present in this apocalyptic scenario. A click, the 
phone off the hook, the record stopped spinning: a minute of silence. Then, just when 
you were reaching for the off-button. . . one final burst; somewhere in the mix there 
might be the elements of a melody which sounds almost orchestral, but it's near- 
completely drowned out by the beats and hisses and the insistent two-note motif that 
drifts through this mess, oblivious to its surroundings. 

Is this an imagined future apocalypse, or this really now, the nightmare truth 
of a mechanised, technology-reliant society which has given up thinking for near- 
automated activity? Yes, the record's paranoid and knows it; but maybe it believes 
what it presents as parody and joke, as two people messing around with beats. 

Chocolabor: Download for Airplanes (Heaphonica 015) 

'autopilot instructor' seems to be building a relaxed ambient feel, but as the 
repetitions of the single melodic fragment which make up its entire five minutes 
increase in volume, the whispers and wheezes of a human voice, the whooshes and 
vague suggestions of beats, and, in particular, the gradually overpowering deep-bass 



20 



rumble, create something more ambiguous (though the piece ends before reaching the 
full noise-climax it promises). 

'fucktakeoff , at twice the length, keeps its cards even closer to its chest - at 
first. A single, foghorn-like drone, accompanied by a barely-discernable vocal sample, 
is joined by hisses, steam-train clacks, and what sound like distant industrial drills, 
which almost completely overwhelm it around four minutes in, the stable element 
now being provided by some boxy drums featuring a particular prominent crash- 
cymbal. The rest of the track mixes these drums with further sounds of industrial 
movement and occasional washes of vaguely choral keyboards. 

This all breaks off abruptly in the midst of another swell in volume; the 
following miniature, 'no more delay', at less than a minute long, is the most sonically 
sparse piece on the album, consisting of the pulsing of one harsh and buzzing drone, 
'funkverbindung 1 19' immediately contradicts the title of its predecessor by 
prominently featuring a female voice heavily treated with delay, at first panicky, 
coughing and spluttering and crying, deployed in a sinister manner reminiscent of 
Aphex Twin's 'Selected Ambient Works'. Brief respite, of a kind, comes through 
what sounds like a flute played through a wah-wah pedal, and a drum and bass beat, 
but these turn out to be only intermittent elements of the texture, which is dominated 
by smeary, wailing keyboards. 

'Eurofight/ Kunstname XVF uses the same keyboard sounds at a slower pace, 
over another drone, with the flute again making an appearance; the whole thing 
suggests the desolate cries of circling sea birds as heard during a particularly nauseous 
spell on a particularly desolate beach. Finally, the only true moment of peace on the 
entire album, despite all the promises, is closer 'The Commander Pipe': simple sets of 
keyboard chords, played with a slightly heavy touch which suggests a church 
harmonium. In itself, it's not very remarkable, but, in context, it does just fine. 

HEADPHONICA LIVE 

New Earth Objects: Live @ Gruenowski (Headphonica.hplive.OOl) 





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21 



New Earth Objects are Marian Reinig, Clemens Wegener, and Tommy 
Neuwirth (Wegener and Neuwirth are also involved in the running of the label). Of 
their releases, the first, 'Live at Gruenowski', is the more jazz-flavoured, though 
'ambient, sample-based instrumental music' is the more accurate description. The first 
section, nearly forty minutes in length, begins with a vibraphone-like keyboard 
tentatively taking the 'lead', though various electronic elements are soon blurring 
distinctions between instruments, between actions happening 'now' and those looped 
from 'before', to create the impression of a gently-tinkling, slowed-down gamelan. 
Vocals haphazardly spray out words, maybe subliminal messages, maybe someone 
stuttering over the telling of their tale so much so that the message is lost. Another 
keyboard and a guitar assume greater prominence, heavily laden with phaser and 
delay effects. Twenty minutes in and a bass-line moves into the picture; finally, the 
brief simulacra of a jazz vibraphone solo, before things move into an electronic haze; 
a more pronounced beat, return of the gamelan feel. The meandering keyboards and 
tinkling loops continue into Part II, along with a vocal sample chopped up, reversed, 
replaced by another ("if I told him, would he like it, would he like it if I told him, 
now, not now, now. . ."). Part III ups the tempo a little; more samples, bursts of 
Spanish radio, things running out of steam: keyboard noodling with the sounds of 
background chat, clinking cutlery, laughter. In truth the focus was probably lost after 
the end of the first part: the impression from the last twenty minutes is that of clinging 
on to fill up space. 

New Earth Objects: Improvised Bedroom Stories (Headphonica.hplive.002) 

'Improvised Bedroom Stories', at half the length, is a little more focused. Part 
1, the louder of the disc's two slow, lazy jams, builds itself around a looped chord, a 
brief melody (played on what sounds a little like a marimba), and unremitting, un- 
deviating electronic beats (with occasional electronic manipulation of sounds - 
stutters, pops, radio whines). A few minutes in, a male voice, seeming to sing to itself 
more than to anyone else, drifts out in a high-pitched ethereal mumbling daze, the 
semi-audible lyrics not delivered on top of this texture so much as floating alongside. 
The piece builds volume towards the end, vaguely jazzy keyboard and guitar 
becoming slightly more active in their deployment of melodic material (one might 
even describe the keyboard as 'soloing', though the parameters which have been set 
dictate a more collective music, the dogged pursuit of limited motivic material over a 
long stage to introduce an unquiet, rock-flavoured trance). 

I find this works best played several times over: on first listen, the trance 
doesn't quite set in, but, after a few goes (the whole thing only lasts 27 minutes in 
total), I find that the music's infiltrated and altered my mood-settings in a way that's 
quite disturbing. I say 'disturbing', but, on the surface of things, there's little evidence 
for this. Yet while the second track, in particular, has a very laid-back vibe, soft 
twanging guitar picking out unhurried lines over blissed-out bass-line, joined by a 
melodica warbling away as if from the soundtrack of some 'lyrical' road movie, 
things never feel entirely still, entirely quiet, even as they're only very gradually 
developmental: the comfortable ruminations of guitar, bass and melodica are made 
less comfortable by the introduction of electronic elements, twittering away louder 
and louder, from background to foreground, and by the late entrance of vocals, which 
initially sound like a zoned-out, less angsty Thom Yorke, and then pick up on a raga- 
like vibe to the music with some semi-Indian melismas. 



22 



So, while the album's described as 'meditative', it seems to be a meditation on 
nothing, travelling at a speed that's not overly slow but which seems unlikely to land 
us in any radically new territory any time soon: travelling with no particular purpose, 
to no particular destination, happy to simply wait for things to uncover themselves - 
or to remain hidden. Stories mumbled in the half-light, not-quite believed, not quite- 
disproved, there on the cusp, in the distance, half-seen in shadow. 

Een Pianist? : Live at Heliogabal [Barcelona], 26 sep 2007 
(Headphonica.hplive. 004) 




Jose Manuel Tabernero creates works which leave the impression of being 
moody and muted, though the timbres and volumes applied are often quite sharp 
(beeps, clicks, scratches, glitches, the vibrations of extremely low frequencies). The 
moniker chosen seems to arise from the fact that much of Tabernero' s work involves 
the remixing and remaking (sampling, or otherwise manipulating) piano music - 
often, it would seem, that of Erik Satie. 

Most often, the method is for a bell-like single chord or set of notes to repeat, 
at regular or irregular intervals, as part of a more fractured electronic texture. On 
'Diferencial IV', the effect is something like that of a Morton Feldman piece, with the 
electronics providing an extra layer of activity at the same time as (deliberately) never 
seeming to go anywhere; by seeming to play against the static nature of the sample, 
they eventually reveal themselves to be underscoring it. I suppose the danger might be 
that they come to seem mere background, lulled into inoffensive reverie as the spice 



23 



in a dish whose flavours are otherwise inordinately similar; yet the quality and variety 
of sounds produced, for the most part, avoids this problem. 

I say 'quahty and variety', which is perhaps a cover for not really being much 
good at describing what precisely this means in terms of actual sound events. What's 
lacking here is my probably, in large part, my personal critical vocabulary, but there 
may be larger issues as well, the need for a widespread, comprehensive critical 
vocabulary to describe electronic sounds. Even years after the first experiments have 
solidified into elements of musical production and sound open to anyone (listeners 
and musicians alike), the way we talk about electronic music is still primarily in terms 
of acoustic instruments and of certain sounds which are expected from them. 

Somehow it makes it easier to talk about work such as Taberno's when one 
can tell that the original source for the material came from someone playing a 
conventional instrument - a laptop, a machine, sure, but one neutralised into domestic 
familiarity. Traditional instruments can be viewed as simply tools to be used, to which 
the performer can maybe even have a physical relation of some sort (blowing on a 
flute, drawing the bow of a violin over (animal)gut-strings, hammering the keys of the 
piano). The non-human nature of the tool does not change our perception of the 
'humanness' of the performer, or of the music. Electronics, though, associated with 
technology, the machine - through film and books and everj^hing else - can't be 
thought of the same way - or we refuse to do so. Even as it has become easier to 
produce the semblance of playing an instrument more in line with the conventional 
sense of 'instrument playing' - the laptop, sleek and compact, as opposed to the 
studio clustered with reels of tape and switchboards and the like - the music actually 
produced can't quite be comprehended as emerging from recognisable human 
causation. In other words, one can't always tell whether this particular action 
produces this particular sound, can't be certain of an established relationship invoking 
comforting elements of control and certainty. 

The weakness of the opening piece, a remix of one of Satie's most famous 
Gymnopodies, is precisely due to the fact that it makes its electronic nature more 
accessible, remains too close to strictures and rules of a sort which, while perhaps fine 
when considered on their own terms, are heading in a different direction than 
Tabernero. It's too easy to hear the original sound source, and, once the basic melodic 
pattern has dragged itself out, one keeps thinking 'it's that famous Gymnopodie 
slowed down' - it seems too gimmicky, too obvious. Of course, slowing things down 
is in itself can be a successful artistic practice - think Douglas Gordon's '24 Hour 
Psycho', bringing out new terrors beyond the 90-minute pulp-schlock format in which 
Hitchcock jokingly indulged, tapping into infantile fear and desire and pushing the 
horror film's voyeuristic tendencies even further to the front than they are normally: 
blaring things out with a full orchestra rather than merely trumpeting them, in a 
manner at once more subtle than Hitchcok and more obvious, more over-stated, more 
crude. Or, in musical terms, Leif Inge's '9 Beet Stretch', a 24-hour version of 
Beethoven's ninth, the touchstone of the western classic repertoire turned into the 
grinding wash of super-slow ambience. A betrayal of the revolutionary ideals bursting 
out of the score; a commentary on the way that these ideals have become mere 
background noise, mere ambience, through the bleeding-chunks format in which most 
popular classical music is presented today; an examination of the material and 
materiality of sound, stripping ideology from sound in as direct and physical a way as 
possible. Perhaps '9 Beet Stretch' is all of these, perhaps none. 

Tabernero' s piece, to my mind, has neither the conceptual nor the aesthetic 
logic or illogic of such a project - but that is by no means true of the rest of this 



24 



performance, which I found to be fascinating listening, tempering glitchiness and 
apparent randomness with elements of restriction and control, discrete use of samples 
with less easily-identifiable sounds, the quasi-ambient repetitiveness of the 
'soundscape' with the fractured and occasionally noisy world of musical collage. 
Caught between worlds of fragmentation and cohesion, particles of sound spin out in 
loops and webs, dots and streams of data, visibly or invisibly connected, floating 
loose and free in the prison and prism of altering and unchanging perceptions. 
Beautifully contradictory yet single-minded, this is music of purpose and poise. 

Noel Taylor: Foundry Solo Triptych (Headphonica.hplive.007) 




The seven minutes of solo clarinet to be found on Noel Taylor's 'Foundry 
Solo Triptych' call to mind the 'Abime d'Oiseaux' from Messiaen's 'Quartet for the 
End of Time,' in the combinations of intense silences with long, held notes that 
crescendo into piercing heights and fly into bird-song trills only to sweep back down 
into melancholic reverberations. Apparently recorded in the converted basement of a 
pub while beer kegs were unloaded above ground, the acoustic allows notes to sing 
out beyond their natural resting-places, but it doesn't echo oppressively; and Taylor's 
hardly one to rely on natural atmospherics over musical effect, in any case. 



25 

M. Del Zotto/ M. Spanghero: Blind Statement (Headphonica.hplive.008) 

More free improvisation comes along in the form of 'Blind Statement' by 
pianist Michele Del Zotto and bassist Michele Spanghero. "To improvise is like 
making a statement without knowing the matter of the speech but your mood; a blind 
statement that can be a strong assertion." This, then, is music that's not made from a 
position of certainty, authority, and pre-determined control, but that opens up 
pathways to realms not accessible except through a certain openness - though one that 
also entails a willingness also to be decisive, when the moment calls for it, to make 
the risky decision that turns the whole piece on its head, that determines new 
directions, new possibilities. 

The disc opens with Spanghero sticking mainly to rhythms and repetitions 
while Del Zotto picks tentative, though firmly hammered melodic paths until he finds 
a repeating chordal figure which forms a new structural basis, building in intensity as 
he begins to pick out single notes in alternation with the chords which he and 
Spanghero clump out in unison. Still there - barely there - the rhythmic patterns 
accelerate, growingly increasingly frenetic as Del Zotto springs swelling and 
frequently dissonant variations on the initial figure. Notes spiral upwards, parody(?) 
of Lisztian Romantic-era piano excess, though Spanghero' s high register sawing 
suggests an altogether more strained and sincere state of mind, and Del Zotto' s 
flowing repeated melody with arco accompaniment keeps the moment suspended in 
the genuine. 

Perhaps the only way to move on from that height is into a quieter, less 
cluttered and decisive texture; almost as if the players are retrospectively embarrassed 
at the heart-on-sleeve nature the previous piece took (not that this invalidates what 
was done, in any way). Bass harmonics, piano chords with the sustain pedal pressed 
firmly down, alternating with strums and plucks on the strings. Similar patterning to 
the first piece: a tendency towards the repetition of alternating ideas, the gradual 
pursuit and development of these in a way perhaps more indebted to the forms of 
classical music than to jazz's linear successions of fresh ideas or to more helter- 
skelter styles of improvisation. The risk is of seeming too studied, too polite (or, 
indeed, of the opposite - of a kind of melodramatic excess), but Del Zotto keeps his 
melodies on edges - of dissonance, of over-floridity - while Spanghero seems more 
interested in the shades to be found in limited areas, small variations of pitch 
changing the colour spectrum behind Del Zotto' s dogged, almost motoric pursuit of 
melody. By the end of the track, things are once more loud and dramatic, though with 
a greater sense of galumphing urgency. 

Back to inside-piano, scraping bass, metallic tinkle and tap and squeak; kept 
up for longer this time, though at the end we find once more a semi-parody of 
classical music, this time the sort of simple melody that one might find in a collection 
of piano music for children. To the final piece, and Spanghero' s still exploring those 
registers and elements of his instrument which move it away from its jazz 
associations, a growling, grinding sound sustained and perhaps even growing in harsh 
vehemence underneath the dogged Del Zotto, dogged as ever in following the places 
the melodies take him. 

All the music mentioned above can be downloaded for free (in MPS format) 
from Headphonica's website: WWW.headphonica.net 



26 



An Interview with John Russell 




Interviewer - David Grundy 

To start off with, maybe you could tell us how you became involved with free music. A 
lot of first-generation British free improvisers arrived from jazz; given that you came 
on the scene slightly later, was your route any different? 

I was brought up by my paternal grandparents in a very rural setting so when I went to 
the local grammar school I noticed that another kid in my class was playing guitar and 
hanging out with older kids. I badgered my grandparents to get me a guitar and a 
tutorial book and a after a while set up a little group playing a kind of mix of pieces 
I'd written and blues/rock music. Not very good but it helped me try things out. I had 
a friend who bought records I'd heard of, in the days when you could go to the local 
record shop and order stuff, and checked out the early SME and Tony 0x1 ey 
recordings. I left home to move to London when I was seventeen and played at the 
Little Theatre club, became a member of the original Musicians' Co-Op and started 
organising concerts. 



I wondered if you thought there was a great difference in approach between the music 
being made now and that being made in those earlier days, in terms of the 
performative aspects of the work and the variety of textures produced. Looking back 
at some of the discographies, I'm struck by the way in which Evan Parker would 
employ additional instruments other than tenor or soprano - in some cases he 's 
credited on 'amplified auto-harp ', for instance - and you also had Hugh Davies with 
his live electronics and invented instruments, and Jamie Muir with his garbage 
percussion. Whereas today when you and Evan play you stick to your instruments and 
play in a fairly matter of fact way- you just get on with it. 



27 



In a way you're talking about the 'kind of noise it makes' and there seem to be a lot of 
people who are beginning to be captivated by that aspect of things and who also seem 
to have a different approach to the whole thing. I think for us earlier on, the search for 
new sounds was part of it, but the nub was to find material that could prove useful to 
improvising. If you like: to find an essence or core to a way of playing music. I did try 
various things with the electric guitar (preparations, feedback etc. and always trying to 
avoid the ' I've got a new device' mentality) but I quite consciously moved to the 
acoustic instrument to get closer to what being a guitarist meant. I'm still trying to do 
that. Incidentally I loved playing with Hugh Davies and still miss him. His 
understanding of the details and bigger musical picture was huge and he was very 
aware of the inherent properties of an instrument, i.e. not just its sonic possibilities but 
how to play it and hence make music. 

Focussing in a bit, I thought we could talk about your approach to the guitar. Given 
his importance in free guitar playing - and free music in general - was Derek Bailey 
a significant influence? And if so, how did you go about negotiating between that 
influence and your own personal style? 

Well, just before I moved to London I had weekly lessons from him for about a year. 
It was all about conventional playing and was very useful. In improvisation I'd been 
doing almost aleotoric things and using gestures a lot on the instrument, and I learnt 
how to map out the territory of what was being thrown up. I like very much the idea 
of 'the whole instrument' so I found his use of harmonics, ignoring or placing different 
emphases on the octave, the controlled ambiguity and particular colour of note 
clusters were all useful to me. Years later he used to come over to my place each 
week and I'd cook some food and we'd improvise duos. After that I thought I'd kind of 
drop out from his circle for a while as I wanted to work on my own. A few years after 
that I heard him playing some of my 'licks'. I'm not saying he was influenced by what 
I was doing, just that if you are in the same area and on the same instrument there is 
always going to be a parallel development. In other musics, most people can't tell the 
difference between Barney Kessell and Joe Pass, John Williams and Julian Bream or 
Ritchie Blackmore and Jimmy Page. I don't think Derek set out to 'redefine the 
instrument' he was just doing what we all do. Trying to find something to play. 

One thing which particularly strikes me about your playing is the use of repetition 
and riff-based material - not in quite the same way as the near-minimalism of Evan 
Parker 's solo saxophone improvisations, nor in as obviously a referential manner as 
the wording of the question suggests, but marked nonetheless. Is this something that 
you 're particularly conscious of? 

I'm quite aware of the use of repetition and of setting up fields of material within an 
improvisation. I also refer back to things that have happened before but this is all a 
consequence of following a musical imperative. Another point is that the instrument 
has very little sustain and the timbral range is also fairly limited so whereas someone 
on a different instrument might employ sustain and a shifting texture I have to work 
that much harder. The, if you like, 'melodic' or 'lead' part is in there, but I often 
disguise this by changing reference points, so it can seem like it's just a bunch of notes 
to some people. 



28 



Maybe we could now talk about some specific recordings. Your second appearance 
on vinyl was a split-album with Richard Goldman, released on Incus Records in 
1978. (John Russell - 'Home Cooking '/Richard Goldman - 'Guitar Solos ' (Incus 
31)). Perhaps you could tell us a bit about your own recordings from this release 
(which it appears were made in your bedroom, given the track titles), and also 
enlighten us a little on Richard Goldman, who seems to have kept a fairly low profile 
since. 

Well that was recorded when I think I was closest to what Derek was doing and had 
fairly recently switched to acoustic guitar. The engineer Bob Woolford went down to 
my grandmother's place in the sticks and he set up a Stellavox reel to reel machine, I 
sat in front of the microphone and he recorded it. 

It was originally supposed to be a duo recording with Roger Smith but he said he 
didn't want to play with me any more and wanted to play with Steve Beresford. We all 
tried to get him to do a solo; hence the design with two independent sides. Incus (at 
the time Evan and Derek) said they wanted a guitar record, so they asked Richard who 
is now a film maker and living in Poland. 




The cover of 'Home Cooking': photograph by Steve Francis 

At some point in the late 70s/early 80s, there seems to have been a little bit of a 
confluence between the work of the British free improvisers and players from the 
Japanese scene: I 'm thinking of the album 'Aida 's Gall ', featuring Derek Bailey with 
KaoruAbe, Motoharu Yoshiwaza, and trumpeter Toshinori Kondo, and the album 
'Artless Sky ', recorded in 1979 and featuring yourself and Roger Turner alongside 
Kondo, once more. Perhaps you could talk about the experience of playing with 
Kondo, and, in more general terms, about this British/Japanese exchange of ideas. 



Most of these players were on Company weeks; either playing or in the audience. 
Certainly that's how I met and ended up playing with them. I played with Akio 
Suzuki, Motoharu Yoshizawa and Kondo through that route and played with 
Takehisha Kosugi later when he came over to work with Merce Cunningham and 
David Tudor. Roger Turner and I had been playing together a lot and we thought to 



29 



add Kondo, make the record and get some gigs. Kondo was also working with Eugene 
Chadbourne and I knew him through Eugene as well. I've been to Japan a few times 
thanks to Sabu Toyozumi who was in from the start and a great musician. He has 
introduced me to a lot of players not known outside Japan and I've found many points 
of contact with what I do and there is a genuine interest in playing music together. I 
am on one CD called 'Sangeraku' and have played with the group (including a dancer 
and calligrapher) a couple of times, which was a real pleasure. I'd love to play with 
them outside Japan and did try to get something in Canada but it fell through. Maybe 
if someone is reading this and wants to help me bring them over they could get in 
touch? 

The foundation ofQuaqua in 1981 seems to have some parallels with what Derek 
Bailey was doing with Company. What was the impetus behind this - do you think it 
was similar to that which motivated Bailey? 

Derek told me he got the idea for Company from the way the musicians on 'Teatime' 
were working, in that we used to change the permutations each time. I've always done 
that as I think that there are at least four areas that influence how the music works. 
Playing solo, regular long term groups, groups that are together for a specific time for 
a particular project and one off meetings. In fact the first ever Company concert was 
Derek with Garry Todd and Steve Beresford and Dave Solomon and I joined them for 
the last set. 

In 1989 you appeared on the album 'News from the Shed ' with John Butcher, Phil 
Durrani, Paul Lovens and Radu Malfatti, and, a couple of years before, you 'dset up 
Acta Records with Butcher and Durrani. I wonder if you could talk about your 
relation to this quieter, more texturally-based improv, which seems to have marked 
out a new direction of some sort in comparison to what had gone before: coming less 
from free jazz and more from avant-garde classical, perhaps. 

By then I was playing acoustic guitar and with no amplification, as I hadn't found a 
way of satisfactorily amplifying the instrument, so it was naturally quiet. Phil Durrant 
and I had spent a couple of years playing each week with Mark Pickworth on 
saxophone (part of my philosophy of seeing what happens in a regular long term 
group) and when Mark left we asked John Butcher to join us. I'd been doing some 
things with Gunter Christmann's Vario groups and was very impressed (I still am!) 
with the way he directed things. For instance at the end of the concert he would ask 
the group to play four or five short pieces with no real development of the material 
and to try and make each piece contrasting. We later used this with Chris Burn's 
Ensemble. I'd also suggest things in terms of material. We then made 'Conceits' and 
set up Acta to release it. Anyway we thought we'd extend the personnel and I wanted 
Paul Lovens and to have a different colour a brass player so that was Radu. We made 
the record and did a short tour under the name 'Quaqua' rather than have yet another 
list of names and the album title 'News from the Shed' (which came from Lovens) 
became the group's name by default. There was never a conscious decision to take a 
different musical direction or start a school. It just came about from letting the music 
come first. I think that if people want to turn things into movements, directions etc. 
that comes later and is for them. I personally don't find that productive. 



30 






I'd like to move on now to consider the role of 'form ' and 'structure ' in free 
improvisation. In a free improvising context, as you suggest in your article 
'Somewhere there 's Music ', these develop spontaneously from the situation in which 
the improviser finds themselves (you use the term filters ' rather than 'form ' or 
'structure ')? I wondered what your thoughts on this improvisational process were; 
though, as you say, improvisation perhaps uniquely offers moments in which "the 
whole architecture crumbles, leaving nothing at all as a reference point" , the rest of 
the time, something different might be going on. I'm not sure it 's a question that 's 
addressed that much, and it seems to me to have something to do with the way the 
brain organizes information and the way in which structures assert themselves - not 
rigidly, killing development or spontaneous growth - but organically and irresistibly. 
Has this been your experience in playing the music? 



Well, I guess, there's a number of things going on here. The nature of particular 
instruments, the immediate and broader cultural surroundings and the musicians 
themselves, all have a bearing on what happens to form and structure. There has been 
some research using MRI scans to suggest that some areas of the brain switch off and 
others, that deal with strategy, turn on and are more developed in improvisers. I think 
perception shapes concepts and in turn our concepts shape our perceptions, so for me 
the important thing is to try to 'open up' to what is going on. An athlete might call this 
'getting in the zone'. I do have moments of abstract thought away from the instrument 
and the general day to day mundanities, that I believe are a necessary part of being a 
musician. This might sound a little strange but I'm sure daydreaming is good for you 



" John Russell, 'Somewhere there's Music', in Rubberneck magazine, 1993 - available online at http:// 
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~meckmag/russell.html 



31 



(Ha Ha) have a look at GK Chesterton's essay on idleness which I remember as being 
quite fun. 

Returning to the question of lineage, there would appear to be quite a difference 
between guitarists coming to this music from experimental rock - let 's say, Henry 
Kaiser or Thurston Moores - and those who had concentrated on free playing from 
earlier on. I wondered about your own encounters with such players, what particular 
approaches you think they bring that might differ from your own, what particular 
tensions might be created by this, and also what sort of common ground you 've found. 

The guitar is a great instrument and one of the things that makes it a great instrument 
is it's mongrel ancestry. It has travelled all over the world and is employed in so many 
musical styles that to definitively take an overview on how the guitar is played is 
practically impossible. I can only talk about my own approach and I would say that 
I've looked at it from Nick Lucas through Eddie Lang up to the present day and, 
although there are far more resources available to the student, many of them aren't 
comprehensive enough, preferring to concentrate on specific areas at the expense of 
others. It's again an, 'I like that sound. How do I play it?' kind of thing, and while not 
un-useful, as an improviser I feel one needs to find a bigger view than that. For 
instance George van Eps book on guitar harmony works on all the possible sets of 
string combinations and although it deals with diatonic harmony can be adapted for 
any other system of tonal organisation. I don't know Thurston's music which is a sad 
gap in my knowledge but I do know Henry and in fact I'm hoping to have a duo 
recording I did with him released, on a compilation of me playing in duos with other 
string players, later this year. Doing it was great fun, Henry is a real guitar enthusiast 
and a fine player. It was the first time we had played together in about thirty years! 

One of your principal areas of activity since the early 1990s has been Mopomoso, the 
live concert series you founded with Chris Burn. Perhaps you could talk about the 
importance of this for you. 

Since about 1973, when I started organising concerts, it has always been an important 
part of my musical life. There have been times when there were very few 
opportunities to play and the only way possible to perform was to put something 
together yourself When I started Mopomoso it was not such a good time so I 
approached Chris and asked him if he'd like to help. Since then there have been an 
unbroken chain of monthly concerts plus a number of special events and workshops. 
Thanks to Tim Fletcher we have an audio archive going back at least ten years and 
with Helen Petts, a video collection going back over a year. 

Other people like Chris Cooper, Martin Davidson and Paul Martin have also recorded 
concerts for us and I hope one day we can make this available. It is a big job. Of these 
records there are about 1 1 CDs released that were all or part recorded live at 
Mopomoso concerts & Helen Petts has uploaded a whole heap of films onto Youtube. 

In terms of programming I try to use a broad brush and not be stylistic, with the only 
stipulation being that the music is, or has a bearing on, free improvisation. I also try to 
take into consideration what is happening locally, regionally, nationally and 
internationally, and also to give lesser established musicians a spot alongside the 
established players. I get a lot of help for this and apart from the above George Coote 



32 



who mns the box office, and Will Connors who does the sound, deserve honourable 
mentions. 

Oh. . . And I get to play once a month! 

You perform in a number of regular improvising groupings, such as your duo with 
Henry Lowther, and your trio with Evan Parker and John Edwards. By contrast, 
Mopomoso pits you in with lots of new combinations and ad-hoc groupings, it seems; 
perhaps you could talk a bit about the advantages and disadvantages of playing in a 
regular group, and in first-time encounters. 

I said earlier that I find both things valuable as they present different challenges. It is 
interesting to see how a particular group's language develops and to take part in that 
and, playing in new permutations, means that you have no preconceptions. To some 
extent it is really the same thing though. I'm just trying to find something to play that 
is appropriate and I try to bring my complete abilities with me and keep an open 
mind. 

And, similarly, what do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of playing 
solo, as opposed to in a group? 

Every musician plays solo but not all of them do it in public. I feel it is an important 
thing to do not least because of the nakedness of the experience and the directness 
with an audience. It also allows me to approach the material differently in that if 
something takes my fancy I can work with that without having to worry about the 
music going in another direction. In answer to this and the previous question I don't 
find any disadvantages really. I love improvising in all the different possibilities. It is 
what it is and I haven't found a better way to get close to music and playing the guitar. 

Elsewhere, you 've mentioned your interest in cross-disciplinary work: collaborations 
with poets, theatre and performance art. Sometimes it seems to me that this side of 
things gets rather neglected. Why do you think this might be, and what do you find 
particular exciting about this sort of work? 

I think other disciplines have other priorities. I was doing a guitar concerto for the 
Dutch composer Gilius van Bergeijk and he told me of an actor who said he really 
liked the way Gilius brushed some sweat off his forehead while playing the piano. For 
him it was something that arose from playing but the actor saw it as a theatrical 
gesture! Working with words is interesting because it's another part of the brain and 
the counterpoint with music can create a different stimulus. Some areas of 
Performance art emphasise the physical, behavioural and visceral and in the visual 
arts a whole new juxtaposition arises. It's about how we are in the world and where 
the boundaries are with music. I feel it's good to look at and experience these things 
but it is always important to understand the differences between disciplines. 

Finally, what are some of your current/ future plans? 

Well. ..I've got the Mopomoso going on each month. In August (16/17/18) there is 
Fete Quaqua which I am really looking forward to. (Here's the line up) 



33 



• Satoko Fukuda (UK) - violin 

• Pat Thomas (UK) - keyboards 

• John Butcher (UK) - saxophones 

• Sabu Toyozumi (Japan) - percussion 

• Jean Borde (France) - bass 

• Lui Chao yun (Taiwan) - pipa 

• Ute Voelker (Germany) - accordion 

• Angelika Sheridan (Germany) - flutes 

• Lol Coxhill (UK) - saxophone 

• John Russell (UK) - guitar 

• Shabaka Hutchings (UK) - reeds 

• Henry Lowther (UK) - trumpet 

• Hannah Marshall (UK) - cello 



A couple of concerts in France and a solo in Austria (Ulrichsberg) in December at a 
festival to mark Paul Loven's sixtieth. I'm also going to Japan. On the recording front 
we are working on mastering a CD for the trio with Michel Doneda and Roger Turner. 
I have just completed recording a solo CD for Psi , and a recording with Evan and 
John for John Zorn's label. There's a duo CD with cellist Martine Altenberger, which 
was recorded from a live concert in France last year, and is coming out in the Autumn 
for Another Timbre; the duos CD with various string players for Emanem and a 
Winter release on Amirani of a quintet, title undecided, for Gianni Mimmo. Oh. . . And 
I'm trying to move house! 

Information about Mopomoso is at http://www.mopomoso.com . 
A short film by Helen Petts called 'Guitarist: John Russell' can be seen at: 
http://Mnvw.youtube. com/watch ?v=xBvBLJ4IZd8. Photographs (see also 
magazine cover photo) : John Russell live at the Festival R. De Choc, Paris, 
and stills from the film 'Guitarist'. ©Helen Petts. helenpetts@clara.co.uk 




34 



YOUTUBE WATCH 

Duke Ellington (feat. Harry Carney) - 'Sophisticated Lady' 

http://www.youtube.conn/watch?v=gkTEfrnnqxws 




A short clip of the Elhngton orchestra Uve in Copenhagen, this is a solo 
showcase for baritone saxophonist Harry Carney; after a spirited introduction from 
Ellington, Carney takes the melody and a solo (which is mostly based around the 
melodic pattern), his forceful playing pushing past Gerry Mulligan smoothness with 
some real bite - I think I even a Brotzmannesque quality a couple of times, although, 
for contrast, listen as he suddenly drops back for some higher-register flutters around 
two minutes in. And then he holds a single note for a full minute, nearly a third of the 
clip's running time. 

At first this might seem like a gimmick, but it's actually also Ellington and 
Carney playing with form, stretching out the 'jazz' ending, the held note, and running 
with it. Carney's note functions as a drone, over which Ellington and the unseen 
bassist trade a skittish melodic shape, but, in large part due to its volume, it refuses to 
be merely background, and there's thus a sense of 'how much longer can it go on 
for?': an extended tension, the anticipation of an ending which is actually in progress, 
but which has been stretched out far beyond the expected length (in fact, it's 
something of a false ending, as Ellington swoops down the keyboard and brings in the 
band for an emphatically final 'real ending'). This is not so much a musical joke as a 
brief experiment, then, and it's a surprisingly effecting one. 

And there's something about watching it on film too: the expression on 
Carney's face as he circular breathes to maintain the note, the sense of effort this 
imparts to a 'sophisticated' ballad. Also worth noting is the bored expression on 
Johnny Hodges' face as he sits next to Carney during that final note, suddenly picking 
up his sax and blowing as he realizes he has to come in for the final band crescendo: 
moments such as these didn't have quite the same appeal to everyone, even members 
of the band. 



35 



Dunois Jazz Channel 

http://www.youtube.conn/user/dunoisiazz 




I'm putting this one down as the whole channel, rather than selecting any 
individual videos, as the channel consists of short (1-2 minute) videos featuring many 
great jazz and improv performers during the 1980s, recorded at a jazz club in Paris. 
Given that they remain clips only, rather than complete performances, it seems to 
make more sense to place them side by side. Looks like the club where they were 
filmed was an exciting and diverse place: featured are American jazzers like Sonny 
Sharrock, who kicks out the jams in typically mind-boggling fashion and breaks a 
guitar string in the process, without missing a beat - (w)rapt as he is in total, joyous 
concentration - and then spinning out some surprisingly gentle jazz balladry, a side of 
him not much heard. Mai Waldron also makes an appearance, with some great, hard 
blowing from saxophonist Richard Raux in a hard-bop context somewhat similar to 
Waldron' s work with Archie Shepp, but perhaps a little freer. 

British free improvisers can also be seen doing there thing: Steve Beresford, 
John Stevens, and Lol Coxhill performing one of his wonderful spoken word pieces 
with the Recedents (from the extract, it sounds like a surreal one-man conversation, 
mixed in with the sudden intrusions of a popular song - at once funny and a little 
disturbing (particularly given Coxhill' s clean-pated resemblance to Donald 
Pleasance's character in Polanski's 'Cul-de'Sac'). Coxhill also turns up alongside 
French maverick Jac Berrocal, this time playing the straight man as Berrocal swings 
bells and cymbals around while dressed in leather trousers and jacket. 

Of particular interest for me are the two videos of a Ted Milton's British No- 
Wave-style band Blurt. Milton was a poet and puppeteer as well as a singer and sax 
player, and it's a great chance to see his performative antics, laid out over the 
aggressive mechanical chug of the other band members. 

Another highlight, in a completely different vein, is the extremely powerful 
vocal style of Basque singer Benat Achiary, in duet with soprano saxophonist Michel 
Doneda: a blend of raw folk tradition with the unpredictability of improv that reminds 
me a little of the work of Ghedalia Tazartes. Though he's made recordings of 
traditional folk music and in improv contexts (and some where the two cross over), 
Achiary is too little known, but he's clearly a passionate and skilled musician. 

Of course, it would be nicer if all these clips were longer, but, as it is, it's a 
great cross-section of things - give yourself half an hour, pop all the videos into a 
youtube playlist, and watch multiple delights unfold. 



36 



'The Universal Mind of Bill Evans' 

http://www.youtube.conn/watch?v=]nn6V7bWnVpw 




An unusually thoughtful jazz documentary, this is a particularly welcome find, 
this. Too ofl;en even quite promising modern jazz docs are overly scattershot in their 
approach: for example, you arguably learn more about Sun Ra from the fiction film 
'Space is the Place' than the more recent 'Brother from Another Planet' (which draws 
on 'SITP' as well as the 1980s documentary 'A Joyful Noise' - 'AJN' does the right 
thing in letting Ra and members of the Arkestra speak their mind without 
'amplification' or 'enhancement' from obtrusive journos or critics). 'Talking heads' 
(whether these be critics or musicians) tend to be used merely to deliver fairly obvious 
factual snippets or unsubstantiated opinions, with short bits of music that aren't given 
time to breathe amongst the commentary. A good example might be the film about 
'New Thing' jazz released on DVD by ESP Disk, 'Inside Out in the Open', which is 
admittedly hampered by its length - it feels like it's trying to cram a whole TV series' 
worth into a mere hour. 

But even those programmes which have the luxury of giving more time to 
their subjects, such as Ken Burns' 'Jazz', fall into the same trip - most infamously 
when Cecil Taylor could be dismissed by a wilfully ignorant Marsalis comment and 
an extremely brief snippet of a piano solo whose overall feel is actually very different 
to the chosen excerpt. (The performance comes from Ron Mann's 1981 film 'Imagine 
the Sound', which gives interview and music space to Archie Shepp (who'd by then 
moved out of the free jazz stage of his career). Bill Dixon (in a trio setting), Paul 
Bley, and Taylor. Portions of the Shepp, Dixon and Taylor bits of the film are, as you 
might expect, scattered around youtube: the Taylor clip in question can be found at: 
www.youtube.COnn/watch?v=cP5L8tjnB6w .) Some might argue that, as with 
television news, an agenda is being pushed - the impression of 'neutrality', of hearing 
several sides of the issue, is foisted upon us by the wide variety of talking heads, even 
as they merge into one voice, crowing the party line. This might not even be their 
fault - but selective editing can make it so. And, importantly, it might not even be the 
fault of the film-makers (debate Mr Burns' motivation in the aforementioned Cecil 
Taylor example as you will), as much as a result of the constraints they have to work 
under - most obviously, with regards to length, and to the sheer scope of material they 
have to address within such limiting confines. 

Which is why I think the 'small is beautiful' approach is probably where the 
best jazz docs come from. There are no such compromises, no glaring omissions and 
skewed/chopped viewpoints in the Bill Evans documentary. By limiting things down 



37 



to three people - Steve Allen, for the introduction; Bill Evans, as the documentary 
subject; and his brother Harry, as interviewer - it allows their thoughts to emerge at 
greater length, and with greater clarity; allows us access to the creative process of an 
artist without the talking-heads' schizophrenic data-barrage of dates, annecdotes, 
narratives. It's willing to be slow and to give time for actual thought about jazz as a 
serious artform. 

As for the actual content of the prog, there are some interesting ideas, though 
I'm not sure I agree with all of them. The intro from Steve Allen is surprisingly shtick- 
free (apart from the rather forced gag where he pretends to forget his name), and his 
point about technique becoming so ingrained that the spontaneous aspects of 
improvisation can flow naturally, without forced or pre-planned conscious thought - 
that the artist can think with/through technique - actually parallel some of the 
comments Evan Parker makes in David Borgo's book on improvisation 'Sync or 
Swarm': Parker backing up his ideas with scientific reference to the left and right 
hemispheres of the brain, or to psi phenomena. 

The statement by Evans which opens the doc is particularly controversial: the 
notion of a "universal musical mind" somewhat similar to Chomsky's 'universal 
grammar', or even to Hegel's 'Absolute Spirit', relies on non-interrogated notions of 
the 'real', the 'true', the 'good'. (Though admittedly, later on, Evans demonstrates (by 
some variations on the tune 'How About You'), how playing 'simply' can be more 
'real' than approximating a more complex approach for which you do not have the 
technical skill). I'm also intrigued by the way in which he thinks a 'sensitive layman' 
may have more insight than a hardened professional, unconcerned as they are with the 
technical niceties of performance, more able to appreciate the spontaneous joys of 
creation. I'd only go along with that so far, though I think it's a valuable corrective to 
the 'high priesthood' of critics telling us what to think, whose opinions may be no 
more valuable than those they 'teach'. 

But let's not get into that whole 'role of the critic' debate. There's much to 
digest on this documentary, the whole of which can be found in 10-minute segments, 
linked from the original video. 

Terror Threat ('Re-Sonorisation n.l') 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MO R U59tlw 




I guess this is more in the line of the novelty videos which seem to be 
youtube's stock-in-trade - if you follow the mainstream paper and digital media 
sources, that is. But, while it may not be a valuable historical record or a serious 



38 



documentation of the process of music-making, I don't think it's to be sniffed at. The 
rather alarmist-sounding title 'Terror Threat' might, I suppose, hint at the nightmare 
nature that you always find in the surreal dream-world of cartoons, the permitted 
world of anxieties, a psychoanalytic playground I'm sure. What we actually have, 
though, is a vintage Felix the Cat short from 1930 entitled 'April Maze', a spring 
fantasy filled with dancing flowers (see picture), sinister thunderstorms, bursts of 
sunlight, and odd interactions between cartoon animals which, given the lack of 
dialogue or of sound effects, take on almost ritualistic nature - a kind of symbolism 
without symbolizing, perhaps, the appearance of standing in for something else (or 
maybe just existing in its own world without the need for that sort of justification). 
Sound has been provided by syncing up Eric Dolphy's 'Hat and Beard', from 'Out to 
Lunch', which fits remarkably well with what we see on screen. 

As Scott Bradley realized when scoring countless 'Tom and Jerry' shorts, the 
sort of sounds generally associated with 'avant-garde' music bring with them an 
irresistible pull to laughter, when deployed in the right context and with the right 
comic timing. Drunken, mock-sinister 12-tone marches were thus an integral part of 
the ever-changing audio landscape which Bradley provided, and which doubtless 
influenced the methodology and outlook of John Zorn's frantic pace changes in 
Naked City. Humour, too, is a part of Dolphy's approach, those exhilarating switches 
of register and yowling smears and squawks hinting at the same anarchic impulse that 
lies behind the classic MGM cartoons; that's not to downplay Dolphy's discipline and 
dedication to his craft, but I don't think humour has to be immediately frowned on. In 
fact, separating the 'avant-garde' off as purely 'serious music' does a disservice to a 
music with the emotional variety and frequent joie-de-vivre of Dolphy, and this 're- 
sonorization' brings that out beautifully. To take just one example, a beaming sun 
comes out as Dolphy's solo comes to an end, a bird landing on a telephone wire 
perfectly syncing with the brief flutter from Bobby Hutcherson's vibes which 
introduces Freddie Hubbard's solo. I'm not sure whether this is so much a re- 
imagining of Dolphy's piece or a re-imagining of the cartoon; rather, it's a neat 
match-up which manages not to do a disservice to 'Out to Lunch'. 

Sun Ra Arkestra - 'Shadow World' 

http://www.youtube.conn/watch?v=qtHnnqbnuZQs 




This one finds Sun Ra live in West Berlin in the 70s. The sound quality is a little 
muddy, and the picture quality is fuzzy - this has clearly been ripped off a VHS tape 
but it's a great example of the Arkestra' s sense of theatre as they launch into a 
particularly liberated workout, albeit one set up by the relentless rhythmic riff which 
Ra plays on piano. The guitarist in particular gets the spirit/ gets into the spirit, with 
some chair and cymbal throwing sparking the emergence of several players from the 
Arkestra' s ranks for a bizarre trance-dance up the front of the stage, the baritone 
player doing a full 360-degree rotation on his back, while still playing, bass clarinet 



39 



thrown up and down in the air in ecstasy. But this isn't just a visual aspect - it's a 
complete performance, mythic archetypes of sound and image, or, more prosaically, a 
re-figuring of acoustic space which one might compare to Sonny Rollins' ambulatory 
performance style, writ large. 




40 



CD REVIEWS INDEX 




^Criticism is always the easiest art. " 
- Cornelius Cardew 

BOZZO, FABRIZIO/ SALIS, ANTONELLO - Stunt 

GRIMES, HENRY/ ALI, RASHIED - Going to the Ritual 

FUTTERMAN, JOEL/ LEVIN, IKE/ FIELDLER, ALVIN - Traveling Through 

Now 

HARGREAVES, PHIL/ DUPLANT, BRUNO/ NO YES, LEE - Malachi 

HASSELL, JON - Last Night the Moon Came Dropping its Clothes in The 

Street 

MAGEE, MASSIMO/ NO YES, LEE - All Angles 

McAULEY, JIM - The Ultimate Frog 

MOLVAER, NILS PETTER - Hamada 

MORRIS, JOE - Wildlife 

OLD DOG - By Any Other Name 

PHOSPHOR - Phospor II 

POPE, ODEAN - Plant Life 

SALIS, ANTONELLO - Pianosolo 

SCHWEIZER, IRENE / ANDERSON, FRED/ DRAKE, HAMIND - Willisau 

and Taktlos 

SHEPP, ARCHIE - Phat Jam in Milano 

SUNN O))) - Monoliths and Dimensions 

TAKASE, AKI/ MAHALL, RUDI - Evergreen 

VARIOUS - Spectra: Guitar in the 21"' Century 

WALTER, WEASEL/ KAISER, HENRY/ SMITH, DAMON - Plane Crash 

WATTS, TREVOR/ HARRIS, JAMIE - Live in Sao Paulo, Brasil 

WATTS, TREVOR/ KNIGHT, PETER - Reunion 

WRIGHT, SEYMOUR - Seymour Wright of Derby 

YEH, C. SPENCER - The Strangler 

YOSHIDA, AMI/ NAKAMURA, TAKAMARU - Soba To Bara 



41 



Historical/ Re-issues 



BARBIERI, GATO - In Search of the Mystery 

CHERRY, DON - Live at Cafe Montmartre 1966. 3 

HOPPER, HUGH - Hopper Tunity Box 

FITZGERALD, G.F./ COXHILL, LOL - Echoes of Duneden 

LANCASTER, BYARD - Personal Testimony: Then & Now 

OSBORNE, MIKE (TRIO) - Force of Nature 

SUN RA FEATURING PHARAOH SANDERS AND BLACK HAROLD 

Sun Ra Arkestra Live at Judson Hall 

WINDO, PAM/GARY - Avant Gardeners 

WOODS, JIMMY - Conflict 



Le 



Reviewers: Nick Dart, David Gmndy, Sandy Kindness, Oscar Lomas 



FABRIZIO BOSSO/ ANTONELLO SALTS - STUNT 




Label: Parco Delia Musica 
Release Date: 2008 

Tracklist: Caduta Libera; Body and Soul; Moschito's Chase; 
Roma Non Fa La Stupida Stasera; Tibet; Caravan; Stregati; 
Georgia On My Mind; Solo un Incubo; Mack the Knife; Before 
Sunday; Domenica e Sempre Domenica; Burst Blues; 
Besame Mucho 

Personnel: Fabrizio Bosso: trumpet, electric trumpet; 
Antonello Salis: piano, accordion, voice 



Best known as a fine post-bop trumpeter, Bosso proves well capable of 
matching Salis' freer inventions, plugging out air-heavy-hisses and pops such as those 
which open the disc, while Salis' prepared piano emits percussive clacks and rumbles 
ominously. It's all one continuous performance, which makes it seem much more than 
what it is - a recital of standards mixed with originals. Rather, it comes across as a 
kind of stream-of-consciousness journey through a very unique interpretation of jazz 
history, mixed in with free improvisation and touches of Italian folk music 
(particularly when Salis switches to accordion). 

Given a tendency towards heart-on-sleeve emoting - often, indeed, towards 
full-blown melodrama - a transition as marked as that between the gloomy drama of 
'Before Sunday' and the affirmatory shout of Salis' vocals and accordion playing on 
the piece immediately following - 'Domenica e Sempre Domenica' - feels perfectly 
natural; Bosso' s trumpet bursting out in majestic melody, Salis' running up and down 
in accordion-voice sync behind him, glorious release. 

'Burst Blues' brings in Bosso' s electric trumpet, quoting Herbie Hancock's 
'Chameleon'. Things turn joyful here, and album closer 'Besame Mucho' displays a 
manic exuberance, Bosso' s slides and smears and growls amped and echoed up, Salis' 
voice and accordion underneath, a drunken but colossal folk vision. (David Grundy) 



42 



HENRY GRIMES & RASHIED ALI - GOING TO THE RITUAL 




dOING TO 

THE RITUAL 

Label: Porter Records 

Release date: 2008 

Tracklist: Hidden Forces Aggregate; Eastemal Mysticism, Virtue And Calm; Gone Beyond The Gate; 

This Must Have Always Happened 

Personnel: Henry Grimes: bass, violm, voice; Rashied Ali: drums 

Additional information: Recorded in concert at WKCR studios, Columbia University, NYC, 2007 

The re-discovery of bassist Henry Grimes 35 years after he vanished from the 
music scene in 1967 is by now well known but no less astonishing and indeed 
welcome for that. Grimes was found by Marshall Marotte, a social worker and fan in 
LA, where he had been living in a small flat, doing such jobs as labourer and janitor, 
during a long period of self imposed absence and self examination. His bass had long 
been sold, back in 1968, after landmark recordings with the likes of Cecil Taylor, 
Archie Shepp and Don Cherry amongst many others. After expressing his desire to 
begin making music again the call for a new bass was answered by fellow bassist 
William Parker who gave an instrument and much encouragement. Grimes began to 
practice and after a period of time tentatively re-introduced himself to live playing in 
a variety of contexts and has been very active once again since 2003. 

This CD sees Grimes united with the visionary drummer Rashied Ali, most 
famously a member of various John Coltrane groups. A meeting of minds and 
certainly a meeting of equals; two inventive and serious members of the jazz avant- 
garde, here playing their hearts out and respecting each other and the music. 

In addition to bass. Grimes also plays violin and recites one of his spoken 
word pieces. The spirituality and integrity of Grimes and Ali is beyond doubt and 
both have been to hard places (especially Grimes) in order to keep the music alive and 
breathing. The musicians interact as all of their experience would suggest though they 
never coast and certainly display an earnestness and seriousness with reflects a 
lifetime of hard work in an uncompromising music and social environments. It is 
hoped that they are now getting some of the dues that they deserve. I'm not sure that 
the best way of entering the music of either of these superb musicians is via this 
particular duo - certainly both have been involved in other less austere surroundings. 
However, for an unvarnished view of the technique and a close listen to a duo 
comprising two of the finest rhythm players in jazz, it is a worthwhile exercise. 



43 



I can commend wholeheartedly commend Marc Medwin' excellent 
sleevenotes and hope that you were able to catch the BBC Jazz on 3 broadcast of the 
Profound Sound Trio (Grimes with Andrew Cyrille and Paul Dunmall). Make an 
effort to catch either musician in some of their other contexts and above all be very 
grateful for the news that Henry Grimes is playing once again! These guys are giants 
of jazz and the new music and but for musicians like them we wouldn't be where we 
are now. (Nick Dart) 

JOEL FUTTERMAN/ IKE LEVIN/ ALVIN FIELDLER - 
TRA VELLING THROUGH NO W 

Label: Charles Lester Music 

Release Date: 2009 

Tracklist: Primal Center; Illumination; Ascendence; Life's Whisper; Dance of Discovery; Moment 

Dweller; Outertopeia; Connextions; Triple Question; Freescapes 

Personnel: Ike Levin: tenor sax, bass clarinet; Joel Futterman: piano, soprano sax; Alvin Fieldler: 

drums, percussion 

Joel Futterman tends to be a somewhat overlooked figure in the free music 
press: perhaps that's inevitable, given that he plays the sort of high-octane, technically 
brilliant and thrillingly fast music which inevitably brings to mind comparisons with 
Cecil Taylor (though his melodic patterning is arguably very different). That's an 
impression reinforced even more by the fact that he made some important recordings 
with Taylor's saxophonist of choice, Jimmy Lyons - though this in fact might 
indicate a difference from Taylor, given that Lyons would hardly be happy playing 
with a pianist dealing in second-hand imitation (particularly as his own groups tended 
to dispense with keyboard altogether, pairing him with Karen Borca's bassoon and 
Paul Murphy's drums). 

Given, then, that Futterman is undoubtedly worthy of stepping out from 
Taylor's shadow - given, in fact, that he did so long ago, it's just that the critics 
haven't moved out with him - any project in which he is involved will always be one 
to look out for, will be an important event for those with an interest in improvised 
music which possesses particularly qualities of energy, particular elements of force, 
and of direct, but varied emphases. 

He's certainly in good company here: percussionist Alvin Fieldler is, again, 
another overlooked musician, but one with a hugely important role in a large slab of 
African- American creative music in the latter half of the twentieth century, as 
indicated by Hank Shteamer's online mixtape, presented at the 'Destination. . .Out' 
blog a few months ago. Ike Levin, meanwhile, on tenor sax and bass clarinet, seems 
determined to match everything the other two cook up, while his playing on the 
quieter sections demonstrates an able command of jazz-based balladry. 

Track titles suggest intent and intensity, ambition and desired philosophical 
weight: 'Illumination', 'Ascendance', 'Life's Whisper', 'Dance of Discovery'. On a 
more specific level, a short spoken word introduction establishes the music's method: 
"three different personalities playing - one might be playing slow, one might be 
burning, the other might be playing just colours. That's the way we normally play." A 
minute into 'Primal Center', Futterman' s roiling melodic figures, rising ever upward 
from both left and right hands simultaneously, suggest boogie-woogie taken to a 
particularly manic extreme; over the top. Levin lays down longer notes, and 
Futterman underneath throws in a little McCoy Tyner as the band transforms into the 
1965 John Coltrane Quartet for a few seconds. 



44 



But, while, as with Coltrane's group, there's a sense of necessity, of 
compulsion, this music is by no means a throwback: Futterman is less inclined to stay 
in one place, on one plane, than McCoy, quickly moving from those dark, shadowy 
chords to rolling round the upper register or playing with echoes of idiom; sometimes, 
too, digging out his soprano sax in concordance with Levin, as on the held tones and 
questing fanfares of 'Illumination'. With the absence of bass, it's often left to Fieldler 
to fill in that part of the sonic palette - his busy bass drum and Futterman' s rumbling 
left hand, always building to some peak, falling away then back again, ascending, 
building momentum, or sometimes, just running on the spot, temporarily arresting the 
music's onward urgent flow, while Levin smears shrill enquiry to the wind. 

After the opening few tracks, connections with jazz become more explicit: 
'Life's Whisper' moves in and out of being an old-fashioned ballad, though kept at a 
pitch of tension by Futterman' s inside-piano work and by the way he stretches out the 
pauses between phrases, delaying expectation and suddenly springing the next figure, 
which might be a chord no less shimmering and lovely for being the sort of thing you 
always find in a ballad feature, or might be a dissonant single note (leaving it open for 
Levin whether to respond in kind or to resolve into a swooning jazz motif). The jazz 
connection segues straight over into the next piece, 'Dance of Discovery': a knocking 
figure from Fiddler's drum-kit asks the question 'where' s this going?' as things begin 
tentatively, mysteriously: slow-paced swing from Levin and Futterman soon falls 
back into less syncopated, more meditative work, but the pace picks up again, and as 
the track gathers momentum. Levin's increasingly impassioned bass clarinet 
improvisations over Fiddler's steady rhythms and Futterman 's ddiciously inevitable 
chordal patterns recalls Frank Wright's work with French rhythm sections on the 
albums 'Kevin, My Dear Son' and 'Shouting the Blues'. What follows is a perfect 
example of Futterman' s ability to turn on a dime from a series of repeated, set chords, 
to wild, scampering sweeps; and, indeed, on the final track, these two modes seem to 
grow out of each other, the difference between the two erased in the maelstrom, 
Futterman pounding out consonant chords with one hand while the other traverses 
into more 'avant' territory, both simply manifestations of the same impulse, the desire 
to play hard, to play to the limits, whether that means repetition or a frantic, helter- 
skelter search for new material. 

Indeed, if there's anything that characterises 'Travelling Through Now', it's 
this easy and natural move in and out of idiomatic playing - or rather, from one idiom 
(relatively 'straight' jazz) to another (free jazz), as if they were the most natural 
bedfellows (and they are). If the album title suggests something 'just passing 
through', it would do well to remember that 'now' is where we always are, and as the 
series of 'nows' captured here go on to exist in more 'nows' as they are played and re- 
played in who knows how many different contexts, the chain of events is potentially 
infinite. Being a 'moment dweller', as these three are, might, then, actually be more 
lasting than other kinds of supposed 'permanence'; an unstable stability, to be sure, 
but what in life isn't so? {David Grundy) 

PHIL HARGREAVES/ BRUNO DUPLANT/ LEE ^OY^S - MALACHI 

Label: Insubordinations 

Release Date: 2009 

Tracklist: porter attention a ce qui va suivre; se lever avant le jour; garder les choses comme elles 

sont; parfois ne penser a rien; oublier que le temps passe; demander a la poussiere; s'aimer le temps 

d'une etemite; croire que tout est possible; ecouter systematiquement son coeur 



45 



Personnel: Phil Hargreaves: tenor and soprano sax; Bruno Duplant: bass; Lee Noyes: drums, 
percussion Additional Information: Released under a Creative Commons license by Insubordinations 
netlabel: http://insubordinations.net . 

Despite the optimistic- sounding titles ('believe that all is possible', 'listen to 
your heart') the music tends to the brooding and mysterious, Hargreaves' saxophone 
and Duplant' s arco bass unfolding fragments and melodies and fragments of melodies 
while Noyes works round into the cracks, prodding and poking, leaping and landing. 
' Se Lever Avant Le Jour' starts exactly like that; then Noyes ups the volume, 
crashing, not-keeping-still on either side of the stereo picture. Hargreaves flutters 
upper register whispers and starts barfmg out in little bursts, centring around the 
initial whispers then alternating hard-edged flurries with shrill shrieks, not forgetting 
trills, everything kept in suspension as Duplant continues to bow and Noyes falls to 
near silence, the occasional tap rising up. Duplant' s scratchy, see-saw rhythm finds 
Hargreaves playing with anxious yearning, single notes and simple figures emerging, 
squeezed out with what sounds like great fragility though the saxophone tone remains 
tough and firm. The track ends with just Hargreaves, a moment staring into the blur, 
articulating some inexplicable and inexpressible loss. 

The reverie's not so much snapped out of as gradually moved away from: 
'garder les choses comme elles sont' opens with what sound like handclaps but which 
turn out to be slapping sounds from Hargreaves' saxophone. A repeated plucked bass 
figure from Duplant is half-playful, half-ominous; Noyes' use of his kit demonstrates 
some delightful lateral-thinking, as he refuses the semblance of a groove by means of 
gentle yet menacing crashes and thuds, a perfectly-placed strike on the triangle, what 
sounds like a kind of contained manic approach - great activity, but at a low volume, 
scratching and rumbling not so much in the background as, again, filtering through 
textural gaps, bringing out nuances and shades to the other men's playing (to which it 
would not always seem to 'relate' in a conventional sense). 

Three personalities emerge, then: Hargreaves, building variations and near- 
repetitions to long, held, high tones, sometimes full of delicate yearning, stretching 
themselves out as long as they can in the hope of grasping some barely-glimpsed 
essence, sometimes yawping with a beautifully-sustained wild ugliness, the sound of 
the deliberate mistake, the reed shriek, the multiphonic wail; the embrace of grime, 
mess, impurity. Perhaps nowhere better is this demonstrated than on 's'aimer le temps 
d'une eternite', where his saxophone comes to sound almost like a theremin, a 
quavering, near-melodramatic sound sustained yet unstable, on the verge, on the edge 
(of crisis and catastrophe more than any easy breakthrough). 

Duplant, meanwhile, tends towards repeating figures which one could almost 
call grooves or 'basslines' - but which are kept from that, which allow the music to 
move into the free territory it inhabits so well through their rhythmic elasticity, the 
constant yet almost imperceptible variation of tempo, the ability to sustain mood and 
atmosphere without falling into the trap of dictating these, allowing Hargreaves the 
freedom to discourse widely, Noyes to scuttle round edges, breaking twigs, stepping 
on leafs, leaving no stone unturned. (David Grundy) 



46 



JON HASSELL - LAST NIGHT THE MOON CAME DROPPING ITS 
CLOTHES IN THE STREET 



Jon Hassell 

Last night the moon came 

dropping its clothes in the street 



ECM: 




Label: ECM 

Release Date: February 2009 

Tracklist: Aurora; Time and Place; Abu Gil; Last Night the Moon Came; Clairvoyance; Courtrais; 

Scintilla; Northline; Blue Period; Light on Water 

Personnel: Jon Hassell: trumpet (1-4, 6, 8-10), keyboard (3, 6); Peter Freeman: bass (1-6, 8-10), 

percussion (2), guitar (7), samples (9); Jan Bang: live sampling; Rick Cox: guitar (1, 2, 4, 7, 9), strings 

(4); Jamie Muhoberac: keyboard (1, 2, 4, 9), drums (4, 9); Kheir Eddme M'Kacich: violin (2-5, 7); Pete 

Lockett: drums (2); Eivmd Aarset: guitar (3, 8-10); Helge Norbakken: drums (3, 8, 10); Thomas 

Newman: strings (4); J. A. Deane: live sampling (6, 7); Steve Shehan: percussion (6, 9). 

A word of warning to begin: it's worth nothing that, at over an hour, 'Last 
Night' is quite a lengthy hsten, and, given the uniformity of the ECM production, and 
the tendency of the rhythm section to noodle a little, it does tend to meander rather too 
lazily at times - perhaps a little trimming might have helped. Then again, maybe I'm 
being a little harsh on Eicher's production - after all, I do seem to criticise it 
whenever I review an ECM release, and by now I should know what to expect, so 
maybe I'm just being unrealistic, or contrary. In any case, a little heavy reverb is quite 
nice now and again, and it bathes this music in a soft, hazy glow, a muted radiance 
which emphasises floating washes of texture rather than picking up on the edges of 
individual line (title track 'Aurora' is a fine example). That's not to say that detail 



47 



isn't picked up: the low rumble of the bass in particular gives the music a sense of 
direction, a rhythmic edge which it might otherwise lack, compared to, say, Hassell's 
1979 release 'Earthquake Island', where a mesmeric tension was generated by the 
encounter between the introspective trumpet lines and the apparently conflicting 
rhythmic drive of the repeated jazz-fusion figures in the bass, the crisp handclaps 
(shades of 'On the Corner', almost), and the insistent percussion. 

Speaking broadly, one might say that 'Last Night' is much more about overall 
atmosphere- a quasi-ambient setting which allows one's attention to drift, only to 
suddenly focus on an emergent detail (often, the note-bending electric violin figures 
of Kheir Eddine M'Kacich). Given some further thought, though, it seems obvious 
that that's always been Hassell's speciality (since he moved away from experimental 
minimalism and came up with the concept of 'Fourth World' music, in any case). 
He's not interested in being a virtuoso, spotlighting himself as a jazz or rock musician 
might, and he demands the same from those in his band, with the result that everyone 
seems to hang back. The music, therefore, requires something of an adjustment: 
expecting someone to make a definitive statement, one slowly realises that the real 
declaration of intent, the real statement, is that which has been unfolding for the last 
ten minutes without one noticing it - that background haze is the real foreground of 
this music, and you'd better start listening to it more closely. 

This is a great attraction: we're so used to someone standing in front of a 
bassist and a drummer and proclaiming themselves 'leader' by playing louder and 
longer than everyone else. Hassell, though is the opposite of an up-front player: his 
phrases, inflected by the melismatic twists of Indian vocal music and the breathy 
delicacy of jazz balladeers like Miles Davis or Chet Baker, seem to hang out even 
after they're over - playing less, but meaning more through it. His tone-control, 
meanwhile, demonstrates that his lip is in pretty fine shape for a man in his 70s, with 
further minute and subtle alterations in timbre achieved through electronic 
attachments: among other things (I think), the octave-divider which Miles 
experimented with during the 'Jack Johnson' sessions. But whereas Miles used it to 
create a low-down, dark and dirty groove, transforming his trumpet into something 
like an electric guitar, Hassell wants to sound like a choir, floating notes into the air 
like released doves. 

Combine this with the use of live sampling and the reverberant production, 
and you have the kind of texture that probably wasn't possible back when Hassell was 
in the early stages of creating his trademark sound. Truth be told, the sampling tends 
to slip into the background much of the time (though at the beginning of 'Northline' 
and 'Blue Period', it starts to get a little more fractured, or at least, more noticeably 
crackly and phasered). This is probably the aim: to create something to which you can 
pay close attention, but which works best as a shifting miasma of elements, 
interacting with and flowing into each other - the kind of uncertainty experienced at 
that stage of half-sleep just before you drift off or just after you wake up. 

Having said all this stuff about the overall sound being the key, it might be 
best to end the review with a few particularly notable details: on 'Last Night the 
Moon,' the string sample, apparently made by guitarist Rick Cox on a portable 
recorder at another recording session (probably for a film soundtrack, though Hassell 
isn't sure); on 'Courtrais' the sudden and unexpected appearance of what sounds like 
birdsong, a fleeting background detail which seems to affect everything Hassell places 
afterwards (even though, given the way the record was put together, with much 
layering and altering of the live studio recordings (themselves using various pre- 
recorded elements), that's likely just to be my fancy, the semblance of something not 



48 



really there). Best of all, on the thirteen-minute 'Abu Gil', Hassell keeps referencing 
the opening part of Duke Ellington's 'Caravan', like an itch he can't quite shake off; 
an itch which spreads to the other musicians, as the melody keeps threading its way in 
and out of the texture - hinted at, played with, tossed aside, only for someone else to 
whisper it back into contention. It's a bit like the album itself: when it starts to 
wander, there's sure to be a fresh twist round the corner, a flash of invention, of 
unexpected conjunction, the spiraling of new directions out of the old - though those 
old directions hover like ghosts alongside, never quite disappearing, even if they don't 
re-appear in exactly the same form. 'Soundscape' might be the word that comes most 
readily to mind, but I prefer to think of 'Last Night' as an overlapping dialogue where 
whispered words can't quite be heard, but where something is always being said. 
(David Grundy) 

MASSIMO MAGEE/ LEE NO YES - ALL ANGLES 



i 




\ 


.iMM 


1 


M 


_mJ^^S^^^^| 




Lee Noyes + 

A// Angies 


Massimo Magee 



Label: Array Music 

Release Date: April 2009 

Tracklist: DISC 1. Prelude — 'Round Midnight; Part 1: Lo-Fi — Guitar Solo (Noyes); Friction 

(Magee); Drums and Sampler Solo (Noyes); Relativity (Magee); Part 2: Patchwork — Patchwork Piece 

DISC 2. Part 3: Live— Live 2; Live 1 [extract], Postlude— In A Sentimental Mood 

Personnel: Lee Noyes - Drums, Percussion, Guitar, Sampler, Loops, Tapes, Bells; 

Massimo Magee - Tenor, Alto and Sopranmo Saxophones, Clarinet, Trumpet, Amplifier with 

Headphones and Preparations, Keyboard, Tapes, Tape Recorder, Laptop, Homemade and Found 

Drums and Percussion, Cymbals, Radio, Tube, Bell, Jaw 

Additional Information: Downloadable from http://arraytnusic.wordpress.Com 



49 



Massimo Magee and Lee Noyes, both of whom feature on the MPS 
compilation album companion to this issue, have also both been involved in various 
projects whose genesis in some way began on the freejazz.org website - the multi- 
musician Cadavre Esquis project and the freejazz.org samplers. Living in Brisbane, 
Massimo has less opportunity of finding a flourishing free improv community as his 
counterparts in America or Europe, which has perhaps led to a greater focus on 
polishing his own solo style, leading to a mastering of orthodox jazz playing and the 
use of an impressive range of extended techniques. 

Given this isolation, the internet has proved an important way of making 
himself heard, and, alongside the aforementioned freejazz.org projects, he has set up 
Array Music, a net-label/blog to release his latest recordings, which are often lengthy 
solo experiments, employing elements of musical vocabulary which have much in 
common with electro-acoustic improvisation, as well as more linear, jazz-influenced 
pieces. He writes: "An array is a way of considering manifold possibilities 
simultaneously. When we are no longer bound by the constraints of time, the past- 
present-future, the beginning and end, it is then that we must turn to concepts like 
arrays that allow us to consider all the endless possibilities that would be available to 
us simultaneously in that one endless moment outside of time. It is in considering this 
that we might be able to reach something beyond our own earthly existence. Array 
focuses on improvisation as a tool for attempting to touch that state outside of time by 
examining these endless possibilities." In practice, this means a laudable generic 
openness (without by any means adopting a scattershot or unfocussed approach), a 
willingness and an ability to test out an multiplicity of instrumental approaches and of 
different instruments. 

'AH Angles', the tenth release on Array, mixes Magee's solo work with that of 
New Zealander Lee Noyes, as well as featuring collaborations between the two men. 
Divided into three sections, it's clear that there's something of a constructive plan 
behind the collection of pieces, rather than simply throwing together haphazard 
moments. Thus, the first section uses some deliberately lo-fi recordings, apparently 
arising from Magee and Noyes' desire to recreate the ambience of 1980s experimental 
cassette tape releases. In some ways this feels rather too artificial, but I suppose it's 
no more artificial an aesthetic choice than the way most musicians choose to present 
their recordings, and, while one could argue that the obscuring of detail that the lo-fi 
medium tends to encourage mitigates against the textural subtlety of this music, in 
practice, it provides a nicely rough edge to the improvisations. This is particularly the 
case with Noyes' rhythmic 'Guitar Solo', where creaks and scrapes, fingerpicking 
twangs and snappy harmonics, give it the quality of a field recording, invoking the 
ghostly presence of vinyl hiss - such a vital part of the way we hear much folk music 
- while at the same time remaining true to the reality of the improvised moment (the 
blare of an MSN sound alert is left in, unedited), rather than falsely archaic. 

The vocalised harmonics three minutes into Magee's tenor sax solo 'Friction' 
come out as particularly unearthly given the lo-fi recording method, while the clicks 
and pops of his fingerwork sound out, not with the resonance of natural chambers, as 
in John Butcher's recent work, but with a kind of boxy, constricted quality that 
intensifies their hardness, their physical strength and impact. At times, Magee's 
playing calls to mind feed squeaking on a polished floor, the clatter of claws from 
animals' rushing feet on wooden floorboards; at others, it is intensely vocalised, with 
some particular startling, screaming yawps which are exhilarating but also almost 
threatening. 



50 



The shrill circularities of the following soprano solo, 'Relativity', while often 
piercing, take place within a somewhat lighter sonic environment: the slight 
background buzz (which could be traffic roar, or a more natural sound) affords a 
greater space, a less claustrophobic setting for lines which swirl round ideas in which 
can be found the joy of constant invention. Tumbling note cascades shrill up to 
repeated, bird-like calls (there's a particularly notable example six minutes in), 
exploiting the soprano's capacity for clarity and its beguiling, sometimes dizzying 
upper-register possibilities. 

Another Noyes solo, for drums and sampler, is more spacious and fleeting yet, 
distant squeaks and echoes, clangs and cymbal crashes never assuming the linear 
melodic single-mindedness of Magee's improvisations. 

Part Two, 'Patchwork Piece', the longest track on the album so far, would 
seem to have been constructed via e-mail collaboration (given the title). While the 
solos preceding it tended to be more developmental and strongly focussed on where 
they were going - unhesitatingly directional - this begins much more slowly, 
electronic sounds punctuating silences with noisy bursts alternately harsh and strident. 
A keyboard improvisation four minutes in battles silence, trilling up to cluster chords, 
arpeggiating into more melodious territory, is joined by high, sine-like drones and 
Noyes' quasi-militaristic snare-playing, before distorting into a barrage of sharp noise, 
a higher and more piercing sine tone, the chipmunk whiz of a tape machine with the 
fast-forward button held down. Cassette tape buzz, magnified up in the mix over a 
yawping saxophone improvisation, gives way to a drum solo, again slightly 
militaristic, concentrating as it does on a regular, repeating pulse. Saxophone re-enters 
and dominates the mix, the whole texture always altering underneath - sometimes 
guitar, sometimes keyboard, sometimes drums - the music never content to pursue 
any one direction at the expense of other possibilities. A fade-out on what sounds like 
yet another new section, at the end of the piece, indicates that the conversation is far 
from over, the musical potential far from exhausted. 

The second disc contains Part 3, the album's live section. Once more, things 
start in dialogue with silence, buzzes and hisses and whines from Noyes matched by 
Magee, who is trying, it seems, to make his saxophone sound as electronic as 
possible. The use of pre-recorded (or perhaps live sampled) sounds adds to the 
textural complexity and unpredictability of the music, while not detracting from its 
curious, almost trance-like pull, as Magee breathes out a sustained single note with a 
lonely persistence that here passes for the most human and lovely sound available. 
Compared to the 'patchwork' collaboration, this is more focussed, more attuned to the 
moment, rather than busy with the buzz of electronically-stitched possibilities; it's the 
sort of synchronicity and collaborative sensitivity that's only really possible given 
real-time interaction within the same acoustic space. 

Another, briefer excerpt from a live recording begins with Noyes alternating 
foreboding picked guitar figures wand distorted strums, Magee dramatically holding 
notes and overblowing in tandem. An aural jump cut finds Magee now playing 
trumpet with the brassy insouciance of a Donald Ayler, the faint sound of his soprano 
sax unobtrusively sampled in the background, Noyes now in gentler, acoustic 
fingerpicking mode. It's an odd but rather effective textural combination. 

The album opened with one jazz warhorse, 'Round Midnight', rendered as a 
rather sprightly and perhaps also rather fraught lo-fi showcase for soprano and drums; 
'In a Sentimental Mood' ends proceedings, Magee's clarinet more flowing and 
lyrical, Noyes' acoustic guitar picking lines around his companion's effulgent 
melodicisms in more inquisitive fashion. (David Grundy) 



JIM McAULEY - THE ULTIMATE FROG 



51 




Label: Drip Audio 
Release Date: 2008 

Tracklist: DISC 1 - Improvisation #12; 
nika's Love Ballad; Improvisation # 5; 
November Night; Improvisation # 1 ; 
Escape Tones; A Ditty for NC; 
Improvisation #6; The Zone of 
Avoidance; Froggy 's Magic Twanger; 
Huddle's Riff; II Porcellmo; DISC 2- 
.Tump Start; Improvisation # 9; Bullfrogs 
and Fireflies; Successive 
Approximations; Improvisation #11; 
FiveTl Get Ya' Ten; Work with Warp; 
"no snare!"; Improvisation # 10; Angle 
Moreli Truly Confesses; Okie Dokie; For 
Rod Poole 

Personnel: Jim McAuley: guitar; Leroy 
Jenkins: violin, viola; Nels Clme: guitar; 
Alex Cline: percussion; Ken Filiano: 
bass 



Probably best known playing as part of the 'Acoutic Guitar Trio' with Nels 
Cline and Rod Poole, Jim McAuley here appears in duet with a number of other 
musicians, including Cline (and his brother, Alex). Poole was murdered in 2007, and 
the disc ends with a short tribute. Leroy Jenkins, too, died before the album's release 
(his contributions were recorded much earlier than the others, back in 2002), and it's a 
nice opportunity to hear once more the way his violin and viola lines sing out with 
confidence and with strength. 

Like Jenkins, McAuley is a melodic acoustic player, but he isn't afraid of 
more 'avant' sounds. Nate Dorward's liners note how sympathetic a playing partner 
McAuley is, his personal, private- seeming approach (which isn't so much reservation 
as an intense awareness of self) not precluding the ability to interact with others. This 
is an innerness which is not compromised by reaching out; which may, in fact, know 
itself more fully for having shared and stretched itself outside the confines of the 
closed-off individual, of solipsism. As a whole, McAuley's playing makes the record 
sound quite folky, almost Americana-ish at times, but he's never happy to settle into 
that mode, employing a variety of techniques and sounds, with plenty of twanging and 
slide guitar as well as harmonics and Bailey-esque spacings and shadings. Mostly, he 
alternates between the realms of the quiet and mysterious or more scrabbly 
explorations. 

Disc One opens with Jenkins displaying his elegance and keen melodic sense 
as ever, while 'Nika's Love Ballad' has the grace and tenderness one might expect 
from the title, Nels Cline and McAuley quietly strumming; a second duet with Jenkins 
is frantic and shorter. 'November Night' is the first piece to feature percussion, but is 
the quietest yet, Alex Cline' s bells complementing McAuley's own bell-like guitar. 
As the track proceeds, McAuley starts to spin out more lines, more notes, but it all 
unfolds absolutely at its own pace, as unhurried as it can be. There's a certain pathos 
to it, the spinning out of remembered sorrow, wistfully contemplating events floating 
past on reverberations of bells, events threading together on spirals of memory. There 
spins a story, darker, lower guitar scramblings leading to gongs, rising winds, then 
higher melody chimes to rest. 



52 



The third Jenkins duet sounds like it might be hinting at jazz; with pizzicato 
violin and plucking guitar it's a scrabbly-jazz flavoured improv at first before Jenkins 
starts bowing with that characteristic tone of his and it turns flowing, violin melody 
lines over guitar accompaniment, ending beautifully as Jenkins repeats high notes 
with guitar harmonics punctuating the silent background. 

'Escape Tones' marks the first appearance of bassist Ken Filiano, tracing 
parallel, nicely symmetrical lines alongside McAley. 'Ditty for NC, their second 
collaboration, finds McAuley exploring bell sonorities reminiscent of 'November 
Night', but with more of a gamelan tinge. Seesaw bowed bass and a repeating dark 
guitar pattern take over, before the mood turns to wonder with tinkling guitar and 
yearning high arco playing. A 'solemn jazz' bass solo in the vein of Dave Holland's 
70s work dies away into more 'seesaw' playing before McAuley ends it. 

The sixth improvisation with Leroy Jenkins opens with solo violin; upon 
entering, McAuley takes an accompanying role, echoing and shading Jenkins' playing 
with some twangy, Beefheart-esque sounds, interspersed with more picky textural 
material. There's a lot of variety to the accompaniment but it never sounds pick 'n 
mix, and it always manages to relate to what Leroy' s doing. The longest track on the 
disc, at over 7 minutes, it ends with Jenkins' repeating high pitches. 

'The Zone of Avoidance' has quiet, almost-bleak guitar sprinkled with 
harmonics and tripping melody through chromaticism and fret squeaks. Once Ken 
Filiano enters, McAuley' s playing expands out to high yearning before the piece ends 
in similar vein to that which it begun. 

It's nice to hear an improv disc which concentrates on short, crafted tracks 
such as the above - not that this in any way limits their freedom or imaginative scope; 
rather, they're like small, extremely well-crafted artefacts, existing in their small scale 
for what they are, touching on varieties of textural combinations, harmonic, melodic 
and rhythmic developments, modes of musical thought and emotional pull. Whether 
it's accompanied by certainty or uncertainty, there's always a strong sense of purpose. 
In fact, it often sounds as though a written melody opens the tracks in some cases, so 
that we have is almost theme-solos-theme: or perhaps simply an ability to remember 
and to return, to give the tracks a pleasing circular developmental aspect, though at 
times things are more open-ended, the way they subside suggesting future possibility 
rather than the exhaustion of a particular set of ideas. 

'Froggy' s Magic Twanger' finds McAuley and Cline exploiting some 
alternative guitar textures: their combined glassy strums sound as if they might 
suddenly shatter and disappear. Balalaika tinkling, tactile jingling. Things turn 
increasingly ominous as low rumbles offset the higher pitches (Nate Dorward's liners 
describe this section as a "dark hullabaloo"). 

Alex Cline' s percussion enters almost imperceptibly a minute into 'Huddle's 
Riff; he then determines to make the occasional crashing, non-standard drum sound 
while McAuley runs away with repeating low slide guitar, stopping before it reaches 
too much of a frenzy and his slide turns twangy, as (perhaps) he imagines himself 
sailing down the river just as 'Deliverance' is about to get nasty. Cline is still there 
with hovering cymbals and all sorts of busy sounding things. The near-random force 
of his percussive strikes somehow still manages to sync with the guitar, a combination 
which increasingly comes to resemble a spirited stomp that's somehow gone wrong. 
After that, this first disc ends with 'II Porcellino', a thoughtful-sounding solo track. 

By way of contrast, the 'Jump Start' to disc two is a playful duet with Nels 
Cline, in which both guitarists play noticeably separate lines much more than on the 
previous tracks. Things become a little more wonderingly exploratory, a little more 



53 



mysterious in mood. A ninth improvisation with Leroy Jenkins is again playful, 
pizzicato violin in tandem with scrabbly guitar. Ken Filiano's bowed drone bass on 
'Bullfrogs and Fireflies' changes the pace: like Disc One's 'November Night', with 
which it shares titular affinities, its hanging sounds approximate silence, a filled space 
which seems endlessly open and free. The most serene track for a while, it does turn a 
little more sombre as McAuley starts playing slide, and the mood is once more 
mysterious on 'Sucessive Approximations', as he picks his way carefully over 
Filiano's arco harmonics. Leroy Jenkins' playing on 'Improvisation # 11' is again 
jazz tinged and melodic, with McAuley taking more of an accompanying role; on 
'Five'll Get Ya Ten', it's Alex Cline's turn to be the more understated of the playing 
partners, with McAuley spinning out lyrical patterns. 

Moving on via 'avant' sounds on the double-guitar 'Warp', 'No Snare' finds 
Alex Cline's drums a little busier, though that's a relative assessment: Cline never 
really plays loud, and neither is he obtrusively or squarely rhythmic - rather, he seems 
at all times to be concerned with extracting the most appropriate and varied textures 
he can. 

'Improvisation # 10' - bowed guitar and breathy viola: if it was possible to 
make a bow sliding over animal gut sound like a human mouth, Leroy Jenkins could 
find a way, testing his instrument's capacities at the same time as evincing a profound 
respect for its limitations, playing to its strengths, as it were. It feels as if there is a lot 
compressed into this track, a lot of (dare one call it emotional?) pressure. That the 
piece doesn't implode under the weight of all this stuff that's brought to it is testament 
to the musicians' unwavering focus. 

Another of the ballad/mysterious pieces, 'Angle Moreli Truly Confesses'; 
'Okie Dokie', a purposeful beginning and a nice meaty improv with Filiano refusing 
to merely 'accompany', giving the guitar solo a real propulsive urgency, creating 
conditions in which the music cannot stand still. 

And then e album closes on a poignant note, with McAuley' s solo tribute to 
Rod Poole. Is the sound of falling rain at the beginning really a necessary adjunct to 
the piece which speaks for itself? Well, it is hard to deny that it adds something, gives 
the track an intimate feel, as if McAuley was just picking away in his room on a dark 
day when it seemed to be thoughts of his absent friend that made the skies grey as 
much as any cloud formations. (David Grundy) 

NILS PETTER MOLVAER - HAMADA 



Release Date: 2009 

Label: Sula Records 

Tracklist: Exhumation; Sabkah; Icy Altitude; 
Friction; Monocline; Soft Moon Shme; Monocline 
Revisited; Cruel Altitude; Lahar; Anticline 

Personnel: Nils Fetter Molvaer: trumpet, voices, 
percussion, programming; Eivind Aarset: guitar, 
bass, programming; Jan Bang: live sampling, field 
recording, programming; Audun Erlein: bass; 
Audun Kleive: drums 




54 



I've always been quite fond of Nils Petter Molvaer's wispy trumpet melodies 
and ambient atmospheres, though I must admit I've tended to encounter them only in 
passing, and my appreciation couldn't thus be described as either that of a true 'fan' 
or a particularly informed critic. So I tried an experiment, playing Molvaer's 2002 
album 'NP3' back-to-back with this latest offering from 2009. In an interview on the 
All About Jazz website, Molvaer describes 'NP3' as his angriest album, and hints at a 
political dimension which he perceives in the way he works: "just playing music — 
that's communication at a very high level. Working together to make something 
sound good, working together to make the other people sound better, more honest — 
this sort of interaction is, to me, a political act, especially in contrast to this chaos 
we're living in." Coming in the midst of a discussion on the use of samples, this 
pricks up one's ears - but, while I'm not asking for conceptual music or for a really 
stringent socio-politico-cultural-geographical-anthropological approach (no, really, 
I'm not!), the reality is that even looking for a smaller challenge or attempt at 
engagement is going to be disappointing. Making the music 'political' seems to be 
limited to the second track, 'Axis of Ignorance', where the voices of fundamentalist 
preachers are sampled alongside a set of beats which are a little more crunky and 
hard-edged than usual. There's also a video of a 20-minute NPV live performance 
which ends by sampling 'Bushwhacked', British satirist Chris Morris' cut-up of 
George Bush's state of the union address. In itself, 'Bushwhacked' is a masterly piece 
of work, bitter yet with a fierce some of humour that is, occasionally, perversely 
childish, without losing its politico-polemical edge (Bush, for instance, is made to say 
"The American flag stands for corporate scandals, recession, stock market declines, 
blackmail, burning with hot irons, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, 
terror, mass murder, and rape", but also, more absurdly, "we must offer every child in 
America three nuclear missiles"). Yet just to play it underneath some beats and 
trumpet atmospherics doesn't seem to me the most political act, doesn't seem to do 
much more than invoke politics as a surface, an afterthought, an add-on, rather than 
something sunk deep into the marrow of form. 

So, I played 'NP3' alongside 'Hamada' and trying to distinguish any major 
stylistic, structural or textural shifts. The 'political' bent seems to be gone in favour of 
atmosphere; while the reviews I've read have described it as being very dark and 
challenging, to me it sounds pretty similar to the rest of his output - melancholic (the 
ambient 'Icy Altitude'), mysterious and cryptic (the opening of 'Friction'), fragile and 
delicate ('Soft Moon Shine'). 

Well, is it beautiful? Yes, a little bit, maybe, whatever beauty means - let's 
substitute 'pretty' in for that, it's pretty and calming and those self-help kind of things, 
introspective and moody as we like it when we put on our 'Miles Davis for Lovers' 
compilations. And at moments Miles really does seem to be in the house, which isn't 
really pastiche on NPV's part, his sidling breathy muffled whines and soft songs are 
established as his own now and he does them well. Perhaps too well, and perhaps too 
often, though: it's just too predictable. When the beats whip up and the guitar rips out 
some distortion and shreds a bit (on the second half of 'Friction' and on 'Cruel 
Altitude') one has to ask, if that burst of guitar sounds ferocious, isn't that just 
because the rest of the album is otherwise too monotone, too one-track? Apart from 
the aforementioned exceptions, each piece is virtually indistinguishable from the next; 
'Hamada' ^rce^' one into background listening, forces one to shy away from detail or 
even some broader, yet still engaged zone of activity. It neatly spreads itself out as 
aural wallpaper which looks a little edgy but which doesn't ultimately have very 
much to it. And those exceptions, those explosions, are very managed explosions. 



55 



brief highs to enable one's blood to rise a little so that the next incline feels like a 
gentle release, a gentle float down to calmer climes rather than a let-down, yet another 
melodic and peaceful, gently sorrowful piece keeping us in the valley when we want 
to climb the mountain for a more interesting view. 

NPV is playing jazz lines a lot of the time (albeit from a rather strange 
perspective, which, like Arve Henriksen, builds on the quiet, ballad aspects of Miles 
Davis and takes that as the supreme starting point), but the background isn't jazz - 
OK, nothing wrong with that. But let's compare Jon Hassell's latest, which, on the 
surface, is pretty similar in its combination of electronic trumpet musings with 
ambient backgrounds and occasionally faster paced beats. NPV's sense of texture is 
far less acute: too often, it feels that the other musicians are simply delivering 
backgrounds, occasionally spiced up with a 'world music' field-recording, for him to 
play over - even though, it must be said, he's not a flashy jazz soloist. Hassell, 
meanwhile, manages to integrate himself a lot more into the overall texture, so that 
the music feels more like real-time interaction or even post-production crafted 
interaction - for example, the way the band toss around the motif of Duke Ellington's 
'Caravan' on 'Abu Gil'. There's nothing really comparable on 'Hamada'. And it must 
be noted that, whereas Hassell's rhythmic sense comes from years of studying and 
thinking about the musics of other cultures, NPV owes a lot more to the fare more 
simplistic assimilation of rhythmic ideas into modern pop. The problem for me is that, 
while the sheer overburdening of repetition, the manic, mechanical, super-fast thrash 
found in the more extreme forms of modern electronic/dance music (let's say, the 
usual suspects - Aphex Twin, Autechre, Squarepusher), is trying to accomplish 
something specific which can be remarkably compelling within its own limits and 
contexts, NPV is simply using the basic sounds of such music as something to go 
underneath some inoffensive trumpet playing which kills its thrust and momentum 
stone dead, which neutralizes it, sterilizes it. Even the opportunities to soar into a 
delicately anthemic climax a la the better moments of Jaga Jazzist are skipped - 1 :40 
into second track 'Sabkah,' a soft wash of sound beautifully compliments Molvaer's 
trumpet lines, but drops out almost as soon as it appeared - it's a telling sense of 
hesitancy, of holding back, or simply of too much comfort, of staying inside the 
confines that one sketched out for oneself years ago and outside which one feels no 
particular inclination to stray. (David Grundy) 

JOE MORRIS - WILDLIFE 

Label: AUM Fidelity 

Release Date: 2009 

Tracklist: Geomantic; Thicket; Crow; Nettle 

Personnel: Petr Cancura: alto and tenor saxophones; Joe Moms: double bass; Luther Gray: drums 

Joe Morris is widely known as the improvising guitarist who rigorously avoids 
all extended techniques, 'effects' and noise elements from his playing to concentrate 
on harmonic, melodic, rhythmic and dynamic methods of non-repetitive musical 
interaction. Here he breaks new ground by playing the whole album on double bass. 
It's still what is usually known asfreebop, improvised from beginning to end. To call 
the overall method of working 'time no changes' would not be too much of an 
exaggeration, even if the walking style Morris cultivates is fluid enough to 
accommodate all the changing inventions of his colleagues. There is none of William 
Parker's endlessly volatile style of ensemble playing. 



56 



To quote from the liner notes:- 'Wildlife improvises openly and collectively. 
Sometimes a fundamental musical idea can be enough to offer clear direction. Tempo, 
relation to pulse, line, repetition or the decision to change direction might be all we 
use or need...' Morris, as might be expected, uses no extended techniques, nor does he 
even bow. Cancura uses multiphonics occasionally, as well as vocalizing his timbre, 
but hints of all-out mayhem of the 'power trio' persuasion are only hints here; the 
intensity simmers, below the surface maybe. Gray's drumming stays relatively muted 
too, even on his solo spots. Morris's solos are not unduly extraverted either; not for 
him the flamboyance of a Mingus or a Barry Guy, but he works out his ideas clearly 
and logically, not that the level of virtuosity approaches his guitar technique. 

On the longest track Thicket (not as dense as the title might suggest) he 
introduces proceedings with what might be called a polyrhythmic ostinato, and the 
harmonic development is reminiscent of a free take on modal improvising, with a 
strong flavour of 1970s New York lofts. 

Morris has played live little enough in Britain, and the recording that was 
made during his 1996 visit with HessionAVilkinson/Fell revealed , despite some 
highly engaging moments, something akin to 'language difficulties' or differences in 
idiom. In 2007 he performed again with Simon Fell at the Vortex in London and, 
given the venue's mediocre (at best) acoustics and ambience, some remarkable music 
was played. The other musicians, Tim Berne, Gail Brand and Steve Noble seemed to 
achieve a better blend. Of course the best musical setting for Morris in this country 
would, I think, be the circle of players loosely associated with Gary Coombes, Neil 
Metcalfe, John Rangecroft, Gary Todd and Nick Stephens. 

What we really need is more venues where this kind of music can be heard 
every night into the small hours. (Sandy Kindness) 




57 



PHOSPHOR - PHOSPOR II 

Label: potlach 
Release Date: 2009 

Tracklist: P7; P8; P9; PIO; Pll; P12 

Personnel: Burkhard Bems: percussion, objects, small electrics; Axel Domer: trumpet, electronics; 

Robin Hayward: tuba; Annette Krebs: guitar, objects, electronics, tape; Andrea Neumann: inside piano, 

mixing board; Michael Renkel: prepared nylon string acoustic guitar via computer; Ignaz Schick; 

turntable, objects, bows 

Additional Information: Recorded Tesla, Berlin, September 2006 

Hiss. Scratch. Drag of needle on vinyl, click, buzz, blowing breath. 'P7' 
sounds in some way industrial. Activity might be too strong a word for it; it's more 
like the technological apparatus in David Lynch' s 'Eraserhead', always threatening 
some action (maybe even catastrophic) but never quite breaking out into that, locked 
in constant tension. Later in the track, one jazz guitar chord. It sounds wonderful, 
isolated in this context. No need to follow it up. Just another sound, not even a 
consciously deployed generic element, no need for that sort of thing. The structure is 
extremely well-managed, small examples throwing into sudden clarity just how much 
control the musicians have in their freedom: the same mouthpiece blow with which 
Dorner opened the record sounds again after a longish silence half-way through, 
almost like a return to a theme. Again, this need not and does not translate into a 
pattern or precedent: it's just there as itself, in the moment it takes to sound out, and 
then something else has taken its place. 

Similarly, on 'PIT, when Dorner actually blows a couple of recognisable, 
conventional trumpet notes on the fifth track, the shock (or the catch in the throat) 
thus provoked is not dwelt on. The atmosphere is almost melancholic, a singing bell 
sounds, a triangle taps, lonely in isolation. It's not sustained: radiator hiss, swishing 
metal pan, harrumphing - another zone entered, quietly left before it establishes itself 
too comfortably. 

'P8': at first, sustained, quiet but piercing sine tones dominate. Hayward's 
tuba is thus far playing the 'conventional instrument' role the most out of anyone's, 
although mostly that just means single notes as one small element in the overall 
hissing texture. A few minutes in, it issues what develops into a drone-like section, 
not 'atmospherics' in the vein the word 'drone' might imply, but still, as close to 
atmospherics as this disc gets, and lovely for it. A really sharp and loud scratching 
sound rips the veil without completely shredding it asunder, allows nothing to be too 
serenely unquiet. 

'P9': musical boxes, little pinging metal tones, guitar strums, Webernian 
uncertainty, barely. Buzzes. Things building, then Dorner' s /owt/ aeroplane take-off 
imitation (as on the first piece of his mesmerising solo album, 'Trumpet'), far from 
the near-serene delicacies with which the track began. High, bird-tweet rhythmic 
patterns: like lots of the sounds here, these sound as if they've emerged from small 
machines set in motion, re-constructed loops, a workshop of mechanical miniatures. 

The group that made this album is fairly large, and the restraint displayed 
throughout is impeccable. Even those sections (not so much 'climaxes') loud enough 
to be particularly intense and near-devastating in impact (when heard on headphones) 
are often initiated and sustained by just one person, most often Dorner. Transitions are 
so delicate that one wonders whether they can really be called 'transitions' at all; full 
attention is therefore needed to appreciate the full range of sonic events, and the 
relations between them. Yet when such close concentration is applied, it becomes 



58 



clear that this music does not risk loss; rather, it is blessed with absolute clarity, its 
textures often a challenge - as they must be, in order to avoid too much ready comfort 
- but always a real pleasure. (David Grundy) 

ODEAN POPE - PLANT LIFE 



ODEAN 

POPE 




^ISTiiuiian 

frLEF SMITH 

PLANT 

LIFE 



Label: Porter Records 

Release date: 2008 

Tracklist: Two Dreams Part 1 ; Happiness Tears; Plant Life; I Want To Talk About You; Scorpio 

Twins; Thoughts; Multiphomc; Two Dreams Part 2 

Personnel: Odean Pope: tenor saxophone; Sunny Murray: drums; Lee Smith: bass 

Additional information: All compositions by Pope, except Happmess Tears and I Want To Talk 

About You by Murray. Recorded at Rittenhouse Recording, Philadelphia May 18"' 2008 

Many readers will have first become familiar with Odean Pope through his 
tenure with the Max Roach Quartet. This trio finds Pope playing with another 
drummer of similarly legendary status, this time the free jazz firebrand veteran Sunny 
Murray. This is at first hearing a workmanlike and honest run through of a number of 
original themes from three excellent musicians which whilst being solid does not 
distinguish itself from many similar efforts. However, further listenings reveal 
subtleties in every piece and Murray is exceptional throughout, using his vast 
experience to move the trio along whilst never playing explicitly on the beat - a truly 
remarkable man. 

The set is bookended by versions of Pope's song Two Dreams and on the first 
version the theme is played in a slow stately manner before being improvised on and 
underpinned by strong walking bass from Smith. After a drum and bass interlude the 
theme is restated at a slightly faster pace before Murray brings the piece to a close. 
Happiness Tears is the first of Murray's songs, the theme being somehow clumsy but 
superbly cushioned by Murray himself- concentrate just on Murray's playing and try 
to work out how he relates to the written notes and improvising of Pope and Smith! 

The title track lopes along at a bossa nova pace and Smith locks into a groove 
to which Murray responds with as near to a regular pulse as he gets on this CD. Pope 



59 



is tonally strong throughout and contributes original scores which enable Smith and 
Murray to contribute equally to the fabric of the music. 

I Want To Talk About You is almost definitively how a jazz ballad should 
sound and it's instructive to think that it came from Murray's pen. An improvising 
drummer and contributor to so many free jazz ensembles over forty odd years he has 
also clearly amassed excellent compositional technique as well. Pope's reading of the 
song is sensitive and the piece sounds as if it could have come from almost any period 
in the development of jazz. Murray is inventive throughout; he never seems to play 
the same fill twice; and Smith includes several quotes from standards in his solo. 

Sorpion Twins commences with a Smith bass introduction before Pope and 
Murray enter with Pope playing in unison with Smith. Pope's Coltrane influence are 
evident as he works improvises on the theme before bringing it to a close. Thoughts 
contains quite simply Pope's standout playing on the CD. It is played solo using 
circular breathing and multiphonic techniques and interest doesn't waver. Sensitive 
recording captures the entire instrument, including pad movements and this ballad is 
every bit as good as Murray's though containing, almost be definition, more of Pope. 
Multiphonic starts with arco bass which gives way to plucking before Pope's entry 
above scattering rhythmic tattoos from Murray. Smith's arco then follows Pope 
closely as the song develops and his personality is allowed to surface more readily 
than on any of the other tracks. 

Two Dreams finishes the set in duo fashion, with Murray seemingly not on the 
track. This CD may not immediately grab you and demand attention but over the 
course of a number of listens it is well worth persevering with - a tenor led trio which 
will reward your patience. {Nick Dart) 

ANTONELLO SALIS - PIANOSOLO 




Label: CAM Jazz 

Release Date: February 2006 

Tracklist: Zuraba Blue; Cerra al Libertador; Con L'Acqua Alia Golla; Totem; To My Wife: Hola; La 

Dolce Vita; Salismanmoff; Graffo di Costa; Nightmare N.20; Fmancial Time 

Personnel: Antonello Salts: piano, voice 



60 



Sardinian pianist Antonello Salis is, I must admit, a recent discovery for me, 
my acquaintance with the Italian scene mostly being limited to players who tend to 
work in more mainstream contexts, such as the trumpeters Enrico Rava and Paolo 
Fresu. On the evidence of this disc, though, and of his the more recent duet recording 
with another trumpeter, Fabrizio Bosso, I may have some serious catching up to do. 

This solo outing alternates between swooning jazz-ballad runs, thick, dense, 
low-register clusters (Salis seems particularly fond of the lower area of the keyboard, 
utilising for a number of different effects and in a number of different contexts), 
percussive prepared piano playing, and the hearty, deliberately exaggerated pounding 
out of melodies. Salis' total commitment to the music he's making doesn't mean an 
entirely serious focus: or, rather, he demonstrates a generous spirit, a loveable 
directness, an emotionalism and brash risk-taking which - dare one say it - can seem 
a little vulgar at times, though more often than not it entirely succeeds in sweeping 
one up in its flow. 

There's plenty of humour, as when he accompanies his piano playing with 
some gargling on 'Con L'Acqua Alia Golla'. The voice, in fact, is an important part 
of the whole experience, imparting a real sense of physical engagement to the playing 
that manages to translate through the recorded medium. One might contrast the way 
he sings along to Keith Jarrett's similar vocalisations; in Jarrett's case, the singing is 
part of a whole manner of introversion, a total concentration, the public manifestation 
of a very private loss into another world, whereas Salis is determined to take everyone 
else along with him into that world. While this means that he's perhaps a little more 
slapdash than Jarrett (or maybe just more loose), the ultimate feel is of a great 
pleasure being taken in what is being done, of a great joy that travels from musician to 
listener in warm-hearted exchange. (David Grundy) 

IRENE SCHWEIZER/ FRED ANDERSON/ HAMID DRAKE - 
WILISAUAND TAKTLOS 









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Label: Intakt 
Release Date: 2007 

Tracklist: A Foiraer Dialogue; Trinity; Schwandrake; Wilisau 

Personnel: Fred Anderson: tenor sax (tracks 2-4); Irene Schweizer: piano; Hamid Drake: drums 
Additional Information: Recorded August 28, 2004 at Jazzfestival Willisau by Schweizer Radio 
DRS2 and March, 28, 1998 at Taktlos-Festival Zilnch. 



61 



The opening track is a 20-minute dialogue for Schweizer and Drake, and Cecil 
Taylor's many duets with drummers immediately spring to mind, but of course aren't 
slavishly adhered to in the slightest. The piece is beautiful for its constant invention, 
Drake matching Schweizer' s energy in boiling waves of sound. Schweizer' s 
preference is for a dialogue between hands - she'll play a phrase higher up the 
keyboard and then answer it, either by repeating it or producing some recognisable 
variation on it, lower down: or the process will be reversed. If that sounds somewhat 
mechanical, in fact, it's a technique so internalised as a means of musical thinking that 
it occurs at lightning speed. About seventeen minutes into the consistently intense 
duo, Schweizer' s playing segues into jazz in a way that's both utterly unpredictable 
and totally inspired; in truth, it was signalled three minutes earlier, as the thickness of 
her assault began to imperceptibly become less dense, her dizzying right hand runs 
accompanied with some gorgeous thick chords. Her playing becomes more and more 
spacious until she drops out altogether, leaving Drake to draw the line between edgy 
fleet-footedness and pummelling, cymbal-accentuated waves which build themselves 
up into faster and louder clusters of energy before dropping back slightly for the next 
go. Schweizer' s return is at once crushing and limpid, sonorous left-hand melodic 
statements giving at once an air of finality and preparing us for more. 

Fred Anderson's playing isn't always my cup of tea, it has to be said - 1 find a 
little wearing his recourse to be-bop vocabulary and to particularly licks which tend to 
get repeated several times in every solo he plays - but he's on top form here, going 
places I wouldn't have guessed he was capable of Whereas in his preferred trio 
format, he tends to coast a little, bass and drums (often Drake, in fact) locking into 
easy or hard grooves over which he can blow as he knows, here, Schweizer makes 
that impossible. It's not that she forces either Anderson or Drake to go 'her way'; 
more, her spirit of restless invention motivates them to reach similar levels of musical 
agility, improvisational athleticism. 

She begins 'Trinity' as she ended 'A Former Dialogue', with granite, stylised 
bass-register melodies. Tinkling Cecil Taylor licks, bolstered up by Drake's loud 
rolls, bring in Anderson and saxophone and piano exchange streams of molten 
melody, Schweizer alternating between strongly rhythmic and jazzy runs which 
provoke Anderson to some of his harshest honks, as if to disassociate himself from 
the be-bop aspects of his musical vocabulary which Schweizer at one moment 
encourages, the next refuses (for her playing rarely stays still, never focuses on just 
one place, one area of musical activity). The drops and rises in this trialogue are just 
mesmerising to hear; Schweizer sounds like she would never run out of ideas, and is 
one of those players who provoke whoever' s sharing the stage with her to a similar 
prodigious joy in the unending realms of creative possibility. And it continues for 
another forty minutes, until Schweizer flings out cluster-splurges to signal the end of 
the manic dance which Drake's gusto-filled oom-pahs have half-parodically been 
leading, leaving Anderson's final two honks to bring in the screams. (David Grundy) 

ARCHIE SHEPP - PHA T JAM IN MILAN O 

Label: Archie Ball 

Release Date: April 2009 

Tracklist: Dig; 111 Biz; Kashmir; The Life we Chose; Revolution; Casket; 111 Biz (Radio Edit) 

Personnel: Archie Shepp: tenor sax, vocals; Oliver Lake: alto sax; Cochemea Gastelum: tenor sax ; 

Napoleon Maddox: vocals; Joe Fonda: bass; Hamid Drake: drums 

Additional Information: Recorded live in concert at Teatro Manzoni, Milano, Italy, on November 

19th, 2007. 



62 



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As ever when Shepp releases a new disc these days, one has to ask: what's 
new about this? Well, on the surface, a few things: Napoleon Madox, beat-boxer and 
rapper from group IsWhat? provides rhythmic amplification with his voice and 
delivers some rap polemix. Oliver Lake's there too, not a bad thing. But listen to 'Phat 
Jam' and it's clear that Shepp's riding the same crest he's been riding for the past few 
decades. For instance: has he been performing 'Revolution/Mama Rose' inordinate 
amounts of times since it first appeared on 1969's 'Poem for Malcolm'? Well... yes. At 
least he doesn't trot out his other very old warhouse, 'Steam', again, I suppose. The 
new tracks are pleasant enough - 'Casket' is, as far as I can tell, derived from 'A Night 
in Tunisia', 'Kashmir' has a certain urgency to it, '111 Biz' is a fairly catchy anti-Bush 
rant by Madox: decent jazz-rap. But the context in which Shepp places himself allows 
for absolutely no surprises; his playing, though still peppered with bluesy honks and 
free-jazz-ish yelps, has none of the edge that it did in the 60s. Whereas recordings like 
'Coral Rock' or 'Kwanza' or even 'Attica Blues' worked pretty well as politically- 
conscious, heavily-R&B -tinged versions of jazz, in which Shepp's rough-edged sax 
had a forceful impact over surging rhythms and righteous riffs, the space he's in now 
is an odd sort of compromise between frankly dull traditionalist jazz (by traditionalist, 
I mean hobbled to cliches, rather than in the fresh and necessary dialogue with 
traditions which Shepp presumably hopes to be engaging in) and token nods to new 
styles of African- American music. 

Once upon a time Shepp wouldn't have been interested in being bigged up by 
Napoleon Madox ('Dig') and would have just launched straight in to blowing the joint 
off the sucker. Not any more. It's almost as if he needs to be constantly reminded that 
he's a 'great jazz artist', and that such a reminder leaves him free of the need to take 
risks, rather than spurring him on to keep it fresh. 



63 



So, 'Phat Jam' is totally listenable and probably quite good fun if you've never 
heard anything else of Shepp's, but, Madox's presence excepted (and, let's be honest, 
while beat-boxing along to the rhythm section is cool enough, it doesn't exactly offer 
the possibilities that Beaver Harris did), things ARE what they used to be in the 
musical world of Archie Shepp, and it's time for a change. The music's not BAD - but, 
for someone of his stature, that's not enough. (David Grundy) 

SUNN O))) - MONOLITHS AND DIMENSIONS 













Label: Southern Lord 
Release Date: May 2009 

Tracklist: Aghartha; Big Church; Hunting&Gathering (Cydonia); Ahce 

Personnel: Stephen O' Malley: electric guitar; Greg Anderson: bass guitar; Attila Csihar: vocals; 
Julian Priester, Steve Moore, Stuart Dempster: conch shell, trombone; Dylan Carlson: electric guitar; 
Oren Ambarchi: electric guitar, electronics, cymbal, gong, wolf log, oscillator; Cuong Vu, Tony 
Moore: trumpet; Taina Karr: English Horn, oboe; .Tosiah Boothby: French Horn; Hans Teuber: clarinet, 
bass clarinet, alto flute; Eric Walton: piano; Rex Ritter: Moog Synthesizer, Korg Synthesizer; Steve 
Moore: Korg synthesizer, organ; Mell Dettmer: hydrophone, tubular bells; Melissa Walsh: harp; 
Eyvmd Kang, Timb Harris: violin, viola; Keith Lowe , Moriah Neils , Tim SmoUen: double bass; 
William Herzog: electric tamboura; Brad Mowen: bass drum, percussion; .Tessika Kenney, Angela 
Kiemayer , Jutta Sierlinger , Verena Bodem, Katharina Emsiedl , Loma Doring , Stephanie Pfeffer: 
female choir; William Herzog, Brad Mowen, Daniel Menche, Joe Preston: male choir; Eyvmd Kang, 
Jessika Kenney, Steve Moore, Randall Dunn, Stephen O' Malley: arrangers 



64 



Stephen O' Malley and Greg Anderson are known for their wide range of 
tastes beyond the expected avant-metal, with be-bop and Miles Davis' electric period 
somewhat surprisingly cited in interviews. And it seems they've made a conscious 
effort to draw on that latter influence in particular here: 'Aghartha' of course 
references Davis' seminal 1975 album, while 'Big Church' riffs on' 'Little Church', a 
haunting little whistle and trumpet number with Hermeto Pascoal from 'Live-Evil.' 
That might be expected, given the similarly dark, dense and electric thickets of sound 
Miles was creating in the '70s, but, as this record shows, the Krautrock-esque, 
blissed-out space-jazz sections of 'Agharta' and 'Pangaea' may have been just as 
important. Especially so given that the final piece is a tribute to the late Alice 
Coltrane, creator of string-dominated devotionals whose trance-inducing, Indian- 
influenced ecstasies might at first seem the polar opposite of Sunn's extended 
emphasis on 'doom' (compare, for instance, the title track of 'Universal 
Consciousness' to 'Beliilrol Pusztit' off the live album 'Oracle', where, underneath 
the monotonous growls of the lead vocalist, what sound like electric drills chatter 
alongside distant wails, groans, cries, and throat singing, like the sound effects for a 
particularly grim horror film). 

The 'standard' massive, doomy drone barrage that opens the record is as 
heavy and effective as ever - rather like the Richard Serra piece which fronts the 
package in stark black-and-white, it plants itself firmly in the foreground and refuses 
to leave, though made up in its massiveness by minute gradations in texture and 
shade. However - and this may be where the Davis/Coltrane influence really comes 
into its own - it's when Sunn branch out into more texturally varied worlds that 
interesting things really happen (this release sees them working with the largest 
number of collaborators on any of their records). Part of their strength has been the 
great variety they find in areas of similar texture and mood - the sustained power 
chord, black metal's monotone landscape taken to its furthest extreme - yet it seems 
they're not afraid of venturing out, of opening up their palette. The result is neither 
merely typical Sunn with added trimmings, nor insanely over-ambitious. As ever, it 
skirts parody and the ridiculous - but that's an essential part of the Sunn experience, 
and without it, the impact would be nowhere near as powerful, nowhere near as 
viscerally arresting and emotionally draining. 

On opener 'Aghartha', Attila's vocals are atmospheric as on the LP-only 
'Domkirke', where they really took off with the accompaniment of a massive church 
organ - an ambience part Gothic horror movie, part religious exploration. Here it's a 
full-blown orchestra, multiple strings screeching and scratching and sliding like the 
creaking of a ghost ship around the words which he half-spits, half-mutters in his 
trademark growling bass register. Further 'dimensions' are added by the unearthly 
sounds of conch shells played by no lesser figures than ambient music pioneer Stuart 
Dempster and Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi-sideman Julian Priester. 

There's something of a shock when 'Big Church' opens with a melodic female 
choir not that far off John Taverner, and even more when expectations are doubly 
subverted as Anderson and O'Malley enter with a set of power chords more intense 
than ever. The combination of throbbing electric guitars and full-blown choir isn't, in 
fact, as crazy as it sounds; in any case, it's nothing like the gently melancholic, 
mournfully wistful Miles Davis miniature it half-name-checks, as rumbling whispers, 
half-Gregorian chant, half speaking-in-tongues, build up until stilled by the tolling of 
a tubular bell. Somewhere in the mix are Earth frontman Dylan Carlson and avant- 
jazz trumpeter Cuong Vu; but, whereas Vu's frequent associate Bill Frissell fitted 
right into the heavy Americana of Earth's latest release, 'Big Church' aims for 



65 



grander things, and there's not much space for individual lines to make themselves 
heard. In the process, it must be admitted, the piece comes close to sounding like 
overblown and simplistic classical music, but the concept is so strange that it just 
about comes off, and it's hard not to be carried along with the relentless force of the 
track's ear-splitting climax. 

'Hunting and Gathering (Cydonia)' substitutes the female choir for massed 
male voices, who replicate Attila's droning growl. Rex Ritter's Moog synth 
occasionally verges on bad taste but comes into its own as the track ends in desolate, 
howling feedback. 

But it's not until the final piece, 'Alice,' that the album really comes into its 
own. Starting off more like the aforementioned Earth album - with slowed-down and 
almost twangy riffs rather than sludgy power chords, each repetition underscored by 
swelling orchestral washes and ominous masses of screeching strings - the rest of the 
track then turns into a bizarrely uplifting extended climax as a trio of trombones enter, 
crawling out melodies at suitably tortuous speeds. What's so impressive is the way 
the whole thing's sustained - inevitability, and perhaps even predictability, are not 
problems, but the bedrock of its success; concerns about where things are going are 
hardly relevant when one's actually listening to the track unfold. One knows exactly 
where things are going, in a general sense - it's hard not to latch on when things 
happen so slowly - yet some details (such as the indefinitely- suspended sound of 
Oren Ambarchi's cymbals) completely escape attention until when realizes they've 
been there for minutes, and it's the unexpected moments which have the greatest 
impact: most notably, the lovely way the track concludes, Alice Coltrane- style harp 
arpeggios causing everything to melt away except Priester's trombone, playing out a 
simple last phrase which, in context, attains an almost unbearable poignancy. 

It's hard to say at exactly which point full ecstasy is reached, or even to chart 
the stages, so skillfully does the whole thing sweep one up in its wake. The 
conclusion must be that it's the overall momentum, the way things build and build - 
much as one can pinpoint moments such as the first appearance of the oboe's counter- 
melody 1 1 minutes in, the entirety of Julian Priester's five-minute solo, those final 
swells and ebbs - they would not be the same without their cumulative and reciprocal 
impact. All this demonstrates a masterly handling of form which, while it appears to 
be working on a fairly simple level, at a fairly low peak of information density, in fact 
requires enormous skill to pull off However you choose to label them - composers, 
sound artists, improvisers, or elements of all three - Sunn continue pursue total, mind- 
and-body-encompassing musical experiences, and 'Alice' may be their finest yet. 
(David Grundy) 

AKI TAKASE & RUDI MAHALL - EVERGREEN 



Label: Intakt 
Release Date: 2008 

Tracklist: Mood Indigo; I'll Remember April; Bel Ami; Tea for 
Two; Moonglow; You and the Night and the Music; How Long 
has This Been Going On?; Cleopatra's Dream; Beginnng to See 
the Light; Two Sleepy People; Good Bait; You Took Advantage 
of Me; It's Only a Paper Moon; Lulu's Back in Town 

Personnel: Aki Takase: piano; Rudi Mahall: bass clarinet 




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'What can I but enumerate old themes?' asked W.B.Yeats in his poem about 
writer's block, Circus animals' desertion. But if you imagine that a selection of show 
tunes, Ellingtonia and bebop numbers (by Tadd Dameron and Bud Powell) involves 
the kind of looped tape of the 'tradition' as practised by neo-cons, nothing could be 
less true. 

The Art ensemble of Chicago's famous blend/clash of satire and reverence for 
the past is more like it, but Takase and Mahall go beyond this. The attitude is there in 
Ganelin's headlong, anarchic take on Summertime and Mack the Knife, some of 
Braxton's marches and other excursions into time signature once considered 'corny', 
maybe some of the musical cartoons of Willem Breuker and Han Bennink; farther in 
the past another precedent for the highly expressive vocalized exchanges of this duo is 
the replication of the sounds of spoken human dialogue on Mingus and Dolphy's 
What love. 

For all that, these two as a duo (but also in their other projects) have developed 
an immediately identifiable sound. The unreserved immersion in left-hand stride 
patterns on piano, often subverted into wild dissonances, Mahall's unparalleled attack 
on bass clarinet with its dynamic extremes, sparing use of extended techniques, let 
loose when they do occur with the impact of an explosion- can this kind of playing 
actually be applied to, say, I'll remember April! Hard to believe, till you've heard it; 
yet, standards like April or How high the moon (not included here) in their original 
sung form were appreciably slower than the tempos used by jazz musicians as a 
matter of course. 

The reply to the Yeats quote at the beginning comes of course from his 
contemporary Ezra Pound who said 'make it new' in relation to translating poetry, but 
the relevance here should be clear. The songs are not so much reharmonized in their 
theme statements as given a new life in the improvisations, which harmonically may 
seem to be at so many removes from the original changes as to be on another planet. 
But Takase and Mahall obviously subscribe to the view expressed by Dolphy, Ornette 
and Booker Little among others that there's no such thing as a wrong note. 

What may put some listeners off is the relentless expressiveness. Intense is not 
the word; whatever is the opposite of expressionless, this is it. The CD blurb calls 
Mahall the world's best bass clarinettist, whatever that means, but there can be little 
debate that since Dolphy, and unlike most of the saxophonists who double or dabble 
on this instrument, you can hear him and say not just 'that's a bass clarinet' but 'that's 
Rudi Mahall.' 

Track 9 begins with an outburst of atonal piano, gradually joined by bass 
clarinet, and after about a minute the strains of the Ellington song become 
recognizable- 'I never cared much for moonlit skies, I never wink back at fireflies...' 
Before the reprise of the theme the meanest sustained reed multiphonics of the whole 
set precede a headlong section of at least double the speed of the theme. Two sleepy 
people is played as straight as any number here, apart from some clarinet ululations 
and some pretty oblique harmonies from the piano. If you were to walk into a music 
space and be confronted with extreme skronk, glottal, guttural, fricative, plosive, with 
key and time signature left in suspense and then recognize the sound oi Lulu's back in 
town, this is the kind of impact the final track has. 

In this age of all-too-mechanical reproduction the neo-cons' replication of 
great music, ancient to c. 1960s has a marked resemblance to those pop singers on Top 
of the Pops who mimed to their own records; whereas this CD resonates and vibrates 
with all manner of echoes from the past, allusions and counter references, holding out 



67 



some real hope for tradition in and around jazz as a basis for creative music in the 
future. 

For those readers lucky enough to hear these two in 2006 either in Appleby or 
London (or elsewhere) this will, I hope make sense. For others who might be 
interested in their approach to music, but have an aversion to standards (not that this is 
'repertory' music), I've added details of a few other albums which shouldn't be too 
hard to find. 

RECOMMENDED 

• Takase and Mahal! - The dessert (Leo). Original themes with 
improvisations. 

• Rudi Mahall Quartett (Self-titled on Jazzwerkstatt Llabel). With Takase, 
Johannes Bauer, Tony Buck. Improvisations. 

• Takase- StLouis Blues (Enja). With Mahall, Fred Frith, Nils Wogram and 
Paul Lovens. Mostly re(de-)constructions of W.C. Handy numbers. 

• Aki and the 'Good boys' - Procreation (Enja). With Mahall, Walter 
Gauchel, Johannes Fink and Heinrich Kobberling. Original themes with 
improvisation, a small amount of verbal input. 

• Takase and Silke Eberhard- Ornette Coleman anthology (Intakt 2 CDs) 
Reinterpretations of OC tunes for piano/reeds duo. 

• Takase and Mahall- Free zone Appleby 2006 (psi). A series of 
improvisations in permutated ensembles with Paul Lovens, Evan Parker, Paul 
Rutherford, Alexander von Schlippenbach and Phil Wachsmann. 

(Sandy Kindness) 

VARIOUS - SPECTRA: GUITAR IN THE 21" CENTURY 

Label: Quiet Design 
Release Date: 2009 

Tracklist: Three Small Pieces [Tetuzi Akiyama]; 
SIX [Sebastien Roux + Kim Myhr]; Nylah [Mike 
Vemsuky] ; Music for Microtonal Guitars and Mallets 
- Edit [Duane Pitre]; Fermion [Cory Allen]; The End 
of the World [Erdem Helvacioglu] ; Fragment from a 
Response to Cardew's Treatise [Keith Rowe]; The 
World Stops [Jandek] 

Personnel: Tetuzi Akiyama, Sebastien Roux, Kim 
Myhr, Mike Vemusky, Duane Pitre, Cory Allen, 
Erdem Helvacioglu, Keith Rowe, Jandek: guitar 



The 'Three Small Pieces' by Tetuzi Akiyama occupy the same sort of territory 
as Taku Sugimoto's work, at the stage before he turned even more drastically to 
minimalism and the extreme spacing-out of musical events. In such a context, each 
event, each gesture, becomes enormously weighted, though at the same time this leads 
to a slight sameness of atmosphere which allows things quite easily to slip into 
background listening. Maybe, in a way, that's the point - while at some moments the 
intensity of focus demanded may raise one's consciousness in a way that is quite non- 
spiritual: a heightening of sense, of perception, of attention to detail (I'm sure one 
could claim that it was spiritual if one was that way inclined, and these may indeed be 




68 



aspects of some so-called 'spiritual' experience) - at others it forms something much 
more subliminal, much more integrated into one's whole environment and awareness, 
in time with a rhythm of being. The two are closer than one might think - partly 
because it's easy, when one reaches a certain level of focus, to slip out of that focus 
into a kind of half-aware, dream-like state, perhaps because of the difficulty of 
maintaining the initial state for a sustained period of time. I may have demonstrated 
an unwillingness to pin things down with 'spiritual tags', but it's hard not to make 
philosophical connections with - for example - meditation practices, and I don't feel 
that's too ideologically weighted a claim to make. 

The piece by Sebastien Roux and Kim Myhr again has a particular non- 
western quality to it, the timbres created a little reminiscent of a gamelan ensemble. 
Again, there's quite an intense focus on small events, though in this case these are 
reversed and looped in a way that's more circular, less linear than Akiyama's 
approach. Much as I'd hate to reduce it to background music for a movie in the head, 
I can't help being reminded of one of those modern short films, not so much 
unfolding as just hovering there in extreme close-up: shots of barely-disturbed liquid, 
occasional ripples in lazy outflow. 

Mike Vernusky's piece again has certain affinities with certain films and 
certain types of film music: the faintly-troubled drone, humming, building, gliding, 
faintly booming, comes across almost as the ambient sound-effects accompanying an 
uncertainly eerie scene, though to these it does manage to keep itself clear of 
becoming mere atmospherics. 

Duane Pitre, a former skater turned guitarist and composer, creates music 
more in common with classic early minimalism: hushed drones and static microtonal 
not-quite melodies, zinging bowed tones leading to growing chorused abrasiveness 
simultaneous with a trembling rise in volume, with more microtonal strums to end. 

Label founder Cory Allen builds 'Fermion' on metallic loops, over which 
what sounds like a distant choir rises and falls over. Water washes swell and fade, 
crackles move up and out. Erdem Helvacioglu comes across as a little more placid, his 
'End of the World' being rather too new-agey for my liking. Drones, tinkles, and 
delay-pedal guitar strums play around for what seems like rather too long, though an 
increase in volume and a folky tinge to the guitar playing do vary things later on. 

If things risked sinking into the rather inconsequential there, Keith Rowe 
doing Cardew's Treatise firmly restores the balance in favour of the decidedly non- 
pretty. In fact, Rowe seems to be the odd one out on the disc as a whole - while he's 
undoubtedly influenced a lot of the other players, a lot of whom are doing the same 
sort of things as him - using drones, loops and metallic sonorities - the textures he 
produces tend to sound more harsh, and, perhaps more importantly, the music he 
creates is packed much more full with event and sonic variety, is much more 
unpredictable in the way it unfolds. 

And then Jandek caps things off- harsh in a completely different way to 
Rowe, and with completely different effect. There's not a drone in sight here; rather, 
we have a guitar and a harmonica freed from its role syruping cowboy campfires or 
punctuating the verses with melodic refrains in Bob Dylan songs, smearing instead 
wild desolate loneliness and uncertainty. 

As a whole, 'Spectra' covers a territory where improv crosses to composition 
and composition to ambient and ambient to sound art. One is slightly wary of the kind 
of art gallery aesthetic that settles over the whole thing - it's easy to imagine this disc 
playing beside some frigid white piece of closed-off eye-candy for the 'sophisticated' 
arty wing of today's rich. But then again, maybe it's some howl in the science-fiction 



69 



night, technology's quiet scream, its metallic sheen in which we see our own 
mesmerised faces. So to listen to this disc is to lose oneself in its not-really 
comforting maze. (David Grundy) 

WEASEL WALTER/ HENRY KAISER/ DAMON SMITH - PLANE CRASH 




Label: ug explode 
Release Date: 2009 

Tracldist: The End; Becalmed; Untamed Talents; Justice and Good Order; 
The Guessing Game; In the Field; An Exchange of Prisoners; Palaces; 
The God of Blue; Second Stories; Home; Sad Experience Teaches Us; 
The Wedding; The End and Afterward 

Personnel: Henry Kaiser: acoustic and electric guitars; Damon Smith: bass; 
Weasel Walter: drums 



Playing with Weasel Walter, Kaiser has to raise his game (by which I mean 
play harder faster and noisier) because Walter is almost always full trip pounding with 
his drum-sticks. This is not the kind of free-jazz drumming you get in the cymbal 
washes of Rashied Ali; rather, Walter's cymbal-work comes out more as ringing 
ticking splashes than watery rolling flow, like the jet-stream of the crashing plane. 
And Damon Smith's bass playing, once you stop to think about it, demonstrates 
phenomenal energy levels to keep up with it all. Yet despite the title and the jokey 
play in the liner notes, which make out that the musicians died after the recording (as 
if the studio energy killed them - the engineer 'at the controls' of the juggernaut- 
aircraft that was this recording session), this isn't as full-bore as Walter's 'Firestorm' 
(a large-group live album featuring Marshall Allen) or his new large ensemble album 
('Mysteries Beneath the Planet'). OK, most people will probably be listening out for 
the electric noise-spasms - which aren't, however, Thurston Moore texture-clouds, 
but three independent instrumental lines all playing full-bore at once - i.e. more 
texturally complex, maybe more in the tradition of European free improv, but with the 
power quotient kicked up by Walter's furious thrashing. But these noisier pieces only 
take up just over half the disc, which leaves quite a few acoustic pieces which the 
liner notes compare to the SME and which do certainly demonstrate a different side to 
the band. 



70 



'The End' finds Walter playing a beat which gives a military tattoo edge to 
things, and Smith playing figures which are almost riffs underneath Kaiser who is just 
nasty, his low buzzing frenzy constantly switching into feedback'd shriek. 'Becalmed' 
is a different beast, quick short suppressed cymbal bursts, high eerie strangled 
tweeting birds, low metallic guitar. Though Walter's machinations ensure that this is 
still full of incident, it's probably the least busy of the acoustic tracks on the record, 
concentrating on Smith charting out his high song-lines and Kaiser complementing 
that with his hollow sound-rings. 

It's not necessarily always the case that the electric tracks are loud and 
pounding in contrast to quiet acoustic tracks, though: 'Palaces' (acoustic) is still 
knotty and dense, though Walter has to tone down his playing to accommodate the 
reduced volume of the acoustic guitar. Back to electricity, 'The God of Blue' is 
dominated by Kaiser's use of some sort of feed-back effect which has similarities in 
timbre to the computer/math-rock elements of later Luttenbachers (let's say, 
'Destructo Noise Explosion'). 

' Second Stories' places us in familiar Walter noise-land once more with what 
sounds like someone screaming, bass and heavily-distorted guitar sliding around all 
over the place like kids frantically back-pedalling arms wildly waving in the air as 
they try to control themselves on the oil-slicked slope. 

As we head for 'Home' things don't seem likely to resolve themselves into 
whatever you were expecting: Walter is scratching, clicking, making Kaiser's melodic 
trail sound elegantly worried; Kaiser, who is both rubbing off on that frantic business 
and at the same time standing in contrast to it, a relatively unflustered kind of picking. 

The final few tracks now, and some new emotional territory is reached or at 
least reached out to: take Smith's arco playing on 'Sad Experience Teaches Us', 
melody trying to poke its head through the strangling electric thicket, and the even 
more explicitly mournful edge to 'The Wedding'. But 'The End and Afterward' is just 
(im)pure filth guitar, rolls to a growl and thump and ends there. (David Grundy) 

TREVOR WATTS/ JAMIE HARRIS - LIVE IN SAO PAULO, BRASIL 

Label: Hi4Head Records 

Release Date: 2006 

Tracklist: Multiki; Tribal; Eastern Eyes; Sopata; Anna B; Three Part Invention; Ancestry 

Personnel: Trevor Watts: saxophones & percussion; Jamie Harris: percussion & voice 

Additional Information: Recorded July 27* 2005 at Teatro Popular Do Sesi, Sao Paulo. 

Given the primarily rhythmic thrust of the music, freer playing is left to one 
side for this date: although on occasion Watts breaks into the sort of sounds associated 
with free improvisation and/or free jazz, this is more as a particular technique, 
deployed for a particular purpose within the context of the song, than as 'free' 
invention. (It's more like the rougher, non-standard sounds you might hear at the 
emotional climax of a jazz song.) That said, his playing is free and flowing, 
melodically inventive and delightfully joining with Harris' rhythmic pulses, varying 
speeds while engaging in the same melody, working round refrains (as vocalised by 
Harris on the final track), repeating phrases until new material shows through the 
cracks, returning to melodies, relishing them. 

When I think about it those are all traits of 'folk musics' or 'world musics' 
(the latter a term which basically just means the combination of the folk musics of the 
world, I would have thought). Of course. Watts and Harris are coming through the 
jazz tradition (which is itself another folk-music), but with a freedom to move away 



71 



from jazz, which the stripped-down setting allows more than if this had been a duet 
with a standard jazz instrument - even a drum-set. Thus, Watts' middle-eastern tones 
come across not as exotic colouring within a fixed jazz context (as they tended to 
even in the work of Yusef Lateef), but as genuine moves into different types of music, 
as part of a discourse not limited by generic imperatives, but allowed to roam by its 
rhythmic restrictions: a freedom to travel across the similar points in different terrain, 
to exploit the tightenings and loosenings of the pulse, dancing across sounds and 
countries at will, but with respect. (David Grundy) 

TREVOR WATTS/ PETER KNIGHT - REUNION: LIVE IN LONDON 

Label: Hi4Head Records 
Release Date: 2007 

Tracklist: Reunion, I-IV 

Personnel: Trevor Watts: alto & soprano saxes; Peter Knight: violin 

These two musicians worked together from 1983 onwards, and then, after a 
period spend apart, decided to do a Reunion at the Queen's Arms in Islington, in 
1999. Interestingly, not only did they decide the music would come out best without 
any practice, they also decided the music would come out best without even any 
discussion about what they were going to play. Bold. And it worked. I would say. The 
result is a CD of one track, lasting fifty-minute, the last fifty-three or so of which are 
devoid of almost any crowd banter. 

There is a pervading sense of peace and meditation in this music. Even in 
sections of atonal multiphonics from the soprano or scratchy 'sul ponte' bowing from 
the violin. Granted, at the times when they are using Eastern modes or even more 
simply banging up and down the pentatonic scale, it is easy to do this, but as I say, the 
variety of music included here makes the ubiquity of this sense an achievement. They 
are truly natural at passing over the focus of attention, even if it is not in order to 
actually play anything approaching a melody, something in the tone of each player 
sort of 'wakes up' as the other hands over. 

At times it does admittedly become essentially a jam for Trevor Watts over 
Peter Knight's strumming of one chord, and in fact, I would say that there is more 
Watts soloing than Knight soloing, but that is probably inevitable given the violin can 
function as a harmony instrument in a far more malleable way than the saxophone. 
(Watts himself eschews the traditional conception of 'soloist', preferring to think of 
all the playing he does as part of the collective sound.) 

Watts is unusual in that as well as having taken in a lot of the techniques of 
post-Evan Parker free playing on the sax, he is also up for playing over just one mode 
for several minutes, with attention only on melody, tone-quality and articulation. 
Slap-tonguing, flutter-tonguing and multiphonics feature in his vocabulary, along with 
the kind of running around that comes straight from Ornette Coleman. 

Knight takes a solo more like a melancholy cadenza from a Romantic Violin 
Concerto around the twenty minute mark, with Watts now in full French-mode alto 
playing, mostly juxtaposing material with Knight, but occasionally unable to reply in 
kind to certain motifs or sounds. 

With such space, their minute intervals and long notes, creeping into 
microtones invoke Xenakis or Ligeti, especially because of the lack of rhythm section 
- at times if it were transcribed it would not be out of place at a contemporary 
classical concert. 



72 



Relatively little time is given over to solo performance, but given the space 
with which each can accompany, this is hardly missed. 

I suppose some people will find the focus on modal and scalic playing limited, 
and others will observe the lack of jazz language in the phraseology. However, this, 
for me, makes the music all the more fresh and certainly a lot of this is down to the 
folk inflections and roots of Knight's playing and Watts' awareness of the musical 
situation in that respect. (Oscar Lomas) 



SEYMOUR WRIGHT - SEYMOUR WRIGHT OF DERBY 



Label: Self-released 
Release Date: 2008 




Tracklist: In the Wright place at the Wright 
i time (three years earlier); REED 'N' 
' WRIGHT!; The Wright balance; Wnght-0! 

Personnel: Seymour Wright: alto saxophone 
Additional Information: Track 1 recorded by 
John Lely, Davener's, New Cross, 2005; 
Track 2 recorded by Tom Wallace, Barefoot 
Studios, Brixton; Tracks 3 & 4 recorded by 
Sebastien Lexier, Goldsmith's College, New 
Cross, 2007 & 2008. 



Despite the intentional and affectionate archaisms in packaging and 
presentation - the record's named after Wright's fellow townsman, the painter Joseph 
Wright of Derby, and the track titles are reminiscent of the sort of cringe- worthy puns 
that cropped up on all sorts of 1960s Blue Note Records - this music is at the cutting 
edge of saxophone playing. Yet of course that edge exists in relation with what came 
before it, and what might have come before it: in a brief note, Wright describes the 
music on this record as "improvised and about the saxophone - music, history and 
technique - actual and potential", suggesting that choosing certain possibilities need 
not mean the automatic dissolution or disruption of other choices, other possibilities. 
Thus, he works to incorporate advances made by his fellow musicians as inspiration 
for his investigations of what is often uncharted territory, claiming in an interview that 
he feels it's a 'moral duty' to match the sort of advances made by the likes of John 
Tilbury and Sebastien Lexier in what can be done with a piano, on a commonly- 
played instrument, full of timbral possibilities which are only just beginning to be 
explored. 

The result sounds nothing like most saxophone playing emerging from the 
jazz tradition, nor even much like that of free improvisation, which still tends to share 
a lot of its timbral qualities with at least the outer limits of jazz: I'm thinking Mats 
Gustaffson, Evan Parker, John Butcher, the latter of whom probably comes nearest to 
Wright in his ability to transform his instrument into something which sounds utterly 
unlike itself (or how it's supposed to sound), yet a vocabulary created with 
painstaking care, attention to detail, and strong musical logic. Wright's aesthetic is 
more obviously 'reductionist' than Butcher's, and that's particularly noticeable on this 
series of solo recordings, which one might describe as a mini-compilation of where 
Wright's technical and mental experiments have taken him thus far. Butcher has been 
working a lot with feedback and with amplified and natural resonances of late, his 



73 



sounds tending to be sustained, to hang in the air, in no way lacking a real bite and 
hard edge, but with a kind of spaciousness that's created primarily from sound, rather 
than silence. With Wright, however, one feels that it's almost the other way round: the 
sounds fit in around the silences, or, if not the silences, the 'ambient' noises present in 
the rooms where the recordings are made. 

That's the impression, though in fact, most of the sounds heard here are 
produced by Wright; the one uncontrolled sound I can think of is a distant police siren 
on the third track, and, for the most part, what might at first sound an unintended 
sonic occurrence, out of the performer's reach, turns out to be a deliberately employed 
musical element which gives rise to a whole new structural and textural direction in 
the piece. Most notable in this regard is a moment from the same track, where what 
sounds like a creaking door (whether this is an actual door or a sound sample is 
unclear) extends its creak a long way beyond the normal length of a door-opening to 
underpin a fresh burst of activity. In context, it sounds extremely noisy, so 
deliberately paced is this music, although, truth be told, it requires a high-volume and 
sensitive headphones to pick out the full nuances. 

The shorter tracks which open the album are both more fleeting and more 
hesitant than the much more lengthy second-half, Wright's manipulation of the 
saxophone keys providing a cautiously rhythmic element which never quite settles on 
the straightforward time-keeping it suggests, his hisses and bursts of breath sharing 
the space with static and muffled voices from a radio which seems to be triggered in 
some way by the reed instrument. It's not always easy to pick out what's making 
which sound, though it seems that most of what you hear actually does come just from 
Wright's alto saxophone, which makes this a real feat of musical inventiveness and 
resourcefulness, and something of a showcase, as well as an utterly absorbing listen in 
its own right. 

This, then, deserves all the plaudits it's been getting among the online improv 
community, and, what's more, it can be downloaded for free. Even if there's a danger 
of fetishising this one release, of building up over-inflated expectations about what it 
can do for the development of the music and the saxophone (when in fact it's Wright's 
continuing live work, solo and in groups, where the development is actively 
happening), it seems to me that is a very significant recording. (David Grundy) 

C. SPENCER YEH - THE STRANGLER 

Label: Chocolate Monk 

Release Date: 2009 

Tracklist: Escape Artist; Comedy FX; The Stranger 

Personnel: C. Spencer Yeh: voice, samples 

Additional Information: Artwork by 'Wyvem'. 

The title of the third piece and of the album as a whole play on the difference 
between 'strangler' and 'stranger': the stranger making these strange sounds could be 
more than just the outsider (artist); he could be strangling your throat with his sounds, 
the villain on the edge, sound murderer who lives below you and spends his life 
working how best to lay waste to the world of sounds you are so comfortable in/with. 
In truth this is wacko: comedy FX at first makes you chuckle for two reasons - the 
'inherent' funniness of the sounds themselves (or so we have been trained to associate 
them, whether they are 'inherently' funny is of course another matter); and the 
knowing way in which Yeh is making music out of them. One can imagine him 
searching through old cartoons and TV shows looking for the FX and laugh tracks and 



74 



in his glee splicing them into a piece of his own. Then it actually turns pretty fucking 
sinister, the clown's face is sad because something is desperately wrong and the only 
way he can tell you about it is by enacting the opposite of what he feels, painted 
happy. This track is about surfaces, it is nothing more than surface in a sense; it is not 
'deep' or 'spiritual'. Is it enough that it knows this, and that self-criticism is built in as 
a mode of criticising a whole lot more? Emptiness and shallowness of TV laughter, 
cultural construction of humour, appropriate and inappropriate sounds, etc. Let's 
admit that track one is, OK, simply a ticking metronome/ squelchy handclap for 13 
minutes, occasionally grinding out to silence or being swamped in static only to start 
up again with renewed lifeless vigour. Conceptually I'll accept that, but to actually 
listen all the way through? The growled and slobbering voices of the 'stranger' on the 
third track might come up with the answer: delirious and delighted and yet somehow 
horrified at having put as through that and at the fact that we have listened, all the way 
through, waiting for the punchline - the effect is near-nihilistic. If it was a joke, our 
laughter soon froze but the mirthless smile was too stuck to turn to tears. It's all quite 
deadening, and maybe that's the 'point'; but I'm not sure I want to take this particular 
lesson again, to find out how deadened I am by being deadened through music. 
(David Grundy) 

AMI YOSHIDA/ TOSHIMARU NAKAMURA - SOBA TO BARA 

Label: Erstwhile 

Release Date: April 2009 

Personnel: Ami Yoshida: voice; Toshimaru Nakamura: no-input mixing board 

Additional Information: Recorded separately by Yoshida and Nakamura in June 2008. 

If music is being made by a human, how can it ever be 'inhuman'? I think it's 
a fair point, and that the presence of a voice should somehow add 'humanity' to 
proceedings, should 'humanise' the 'cold surfaces' of this kind of improvised 
electronic music, is dispelled by the way in which Nakamura' s fuzzes and clicks 
interact with the curiously repetitive nature of Yoshida' s voice, focussing on similar 
notes and overtones, nightmare scream-repetition (in a controlled way - this isn't in- 
your-face scream-therapy). The record is quiet and there are silences, but it feels 
claustrophobic too (if I'm permitted to apply the spatial metaphor to sound), closing 
in; if a silence exists for longer than to create utmost tension it is quickly broken, most 
often by Yoshida. Maybe Nakamura' s sounds become a new kind of silence, an 
underpinning that does not so much accompany (for lead voice is not the issue here) 
but insinuates its way in to become fragile bedrock - bedrock maybe for the listener's 
own thoughts or their physical reactions to the sound, who knows. 

And that question of tension - can the music be said to be tense (it is tensile, 
sure) when it brings to bear that certain flattened repetitive quality? That may not be 
so much a result of actually repetition, minimalism-style; rather, the use of materials 
and palette is notably (and deliberately) restricted to a small range of gestures 
reconfigured and re-examined in multiple relations. So that feeling comes across as 
something of a quality of the types of sound produced and the types of 'atmosphere' 
explored, much as one might want to pin these down to some concrete source: e.g. the 
restriction of gesture or the adoption of certain combinations of timbre - grating yet 
pure multi-layered vocals with impure (frequency-mixed) electronics wherein the 
appearance of a pure sine-tone (more occasional than one might expect given our 
expectations of Nakamura) serves at once to bring out the 'pure' side of the music and 
to emphasise its 'impurity'. 



75 



Is 'emotion' the question here? Well, the music makes me feel certain things, 
maybe the result of my particular mood when I put it on, but it's not so much that it 
can inscribe whatever you bring to it, that it's some kind of emptied surface for you to 
fill - yet nor is it the case that the primary aim is to 'communicate emotion'. Hell, the 
music might just be made without thinking about 'listeners' at all, just existing for 
itself and for those who make it, whose activity it encapsulates yet lives beyond. 
(David Grundy) 



RE-ISSUES/ HISTORICAL 

GATO BARBIERI - IN SEARCH OF THE MYSTERY 

Label: ESP - Disk 

Release date: 2009 

Tracklist: In Search of the Mystery/ Michelle; Obsession No. 2/ Cinemateque 

Personnel: Gato Barbien: tenor saxophone; Calo Scott: cello; Sirone: bass; Bobby Kapp :drums 

Additional information: Originally released in 1967. 

Gato Barbieri's career has traced a strange trajectory, from work on some of 
the most extreme free jazz of the late 60s, to a soupy pop/jazz hybrid whose only 
connection with the earlier recordings was Barbieri's still-distinctive tenor sax tone. 
As critic Richard S. Ginell puts it, "regardless of the idiom in which he works, the 
warm-blooded Barbieri has always been one of the most overtly emotional tenor sax 
soloists on record, occasionally driving the voltage even higher with impulsive vocal 
cheerleading." 

Beginning his musical career in the big band of Argentina's other main 
jazzman, Lalo Schifrin, he was introduced to the free jazz scene when he moved to 
Europe in 1962, joining Don Cherry's group (see review below). His earlier playing 
was influenced by John Coltrane, as most of the avant-garde saxophonists were, but it 
actually sounds closer to the extremely rough, vocalised tone of Pharoah Sanders and 
Albert Ayler, going straight for the ecstatic jugular with no pussyfooting. It was 
perhaps a more limited sound than Coltrane' s (or Sanders' or Ayler' s, for that matter), 
but it had tremendous visceral effect, creating excitement and burning with passion 
whether in a free jazz or straighter context. He once said: "When I play the 
saxophone, I play life, I play love, I play anger, I play confusion. I play when people 
scream." 

Like many free jazz musicians at this period in the late 60s, Barbieri was 
recorded by ESP Disk, cutting this, one of the most avant-garde album recorded under 
his leadership (though it's actually somewhat quieter than his appearance as one of 
the featured soloists on 'Communications' by the Jazz Composers' Orchestra, where he 
really pushes the boat out). The title track finds Gato worrying away at single phrases, 
the stripped-back rhythm section with the unusual (for jazz) cello timbre giving the 
music a sense of real urgency and strangeness. Even at this stage, Barbieri's playing 
seems to be coming from a very different angle to that of the other free jazz musicians 
with whom he was collaborating, and with whom he was being compared at the time. 
Many of his notes, however shrieking and shocking in sound quality, seem to come 
from fairly basic variations on the same initial motif, peppering his solos, giving them 
circular, non-developmental aspects, which builds up an intense, almost 
claustrophobic power. 



76 



Cellist Calo Scott also appeared on albums around this time with Archie 
Shepp ('Things Have Got to Change' and 'Attica Blues', from 1971 and 72 
respectively), Thelonious Monk sideman Charlie Rouse ('Two is One', from 1974), 
and Carla Bley (he was one of the many musicians, Barbieri included, who appeared 
on 'Escalator Over the Hill'). His playing here has a woozy, swooning quality to it - 
that doesn't mean that it's overly soupy, but the tendency for dissonances to emerge 
from the gradual ratcheting up of originally lyrical lines perfectly complements 
Barbieri's style, and contributes to the somewhat melancholic feel of the date which 
marks it out structurally, as well as emotionally, from a lot of the other free jazz of the 
time. Listen, for instance, to the way the music stills to almost nothing around 14 
minutes into the first piece on the album - listen too, to the way it's a drum solo 
which marks the quietest point, Bobby Kapp demonstrating laudable restraint in not 
taking the opportunity to provide a loud, crash-and-bash showcase. 

While this may, then, be neither the most joyous nor the most ferocious 
Barbieri recording available (one might almost see it as something of an anomaly in 
his career), it does have a very distinctive atmosphere to it which marks it out as well 
worth a listen. The re-issue is sparsely packaged, with no liner notes or new 
photographs: all you get is the music and the recording details, and in a way that's 
appropriate -it often feels that Gato simply stands up and plays what he feels it 
necessary to play, under the compulsion of the moment, and to try and box this in 
with extra facts and figures would not get at that essence. It's all there, laid bare in the 
music, and, despite the title, it's no mystery: all that's required is that you listen. 
{David Grundy) 

DON CHERRY - LIVE AT CAFE MONTMARTRE 1966, VOL. 3 




Label: ESP - Disk 
Release date: 2009 

Tracklist: Complete Communion; Remembrance 

Personnel: Don Cherry: trumpet & pocket trumpet; Leandro 'Gato' Barbieri: tenor saxophone; Karl 

Berger: vibes; Bo Stief: bass; Aldo Romano: drums 

Additional information: Broadcast from the Cafe Montmartre, Copenhagen March B"* 1966. 



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The great Don Cherry was in at the 'invention' of World Music; not as part of 
a conscious movement, rather as a player willing to collaborate selflessly with players 
from differing genres and cultures, which he did up to his death in 1995. He played in 
jazz, folk, and rock contexts and also embraced unusual instruments (doussn'gouni / 
pocket trumpet) and often sparse instrumentation to convey his music. 

This CD comes, of course, from what could loosely be described as the jazz 
phase which started his recording career. After important recordings with Ornette 
Coleman, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Albert Ayler and George Russell, Cherry 
recorded his first album as a leader under his own name, the brilliant and 
groundbreaking Complete Communion for Blue Note in December 1965. The two 
long pieces on that album were recorded as suites of themes drawing on the input of 
bandmates as equal partners to ensure the lyrical flow of the music and to emphasise 
the subtle dynamics. 

The CD in question was recorded live and is similarly structured. It is thrilling 
to hear how Cherry's music can flow with the input of colleagues from a different 
continent - only the tenor player Barbieri was present on the Complete Communion 
recording a matter of a mere two months earlier. 

The first track. Complete Communion, is a looser version of the piece which 
opened the album of the same name, but including a reading of Antonio Carlos 
Jobim's Insensatez (for a different take on the same piece, by the way, check out the 
version on Robert Wyatt's Cuckooland from 2003 - a good tune travels effortlessly 
down the years and across genres!). Cherry and Barbieri are lyrical, subtle and 
quiet/loud as required by the music and Karl Berger's vibes rise ghostlike for solos 
when called for - shimmering like Bobby Hutcherson on Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch 
album. There are differing time signatures and dynamics and the drumming of Aldo 
Romano intuitively follows and pushes the band. Bo Stief, the Danish bassist anchors 
the music and it is instructive and no small compliment to him, that Cherry's music 
can be interpreted by a European band (in addition to Stief, Romano is Italian and 
Berger German) 

The second track, Remembrance, is named after a similarly titled section of 
the original Complete Communion suite and develops the mood of that piece and also, 
maybe surprisingly, includes Ray Brown's Two Bass Hit. Everything is treated as a 
musical 'whole' and Two Bass Hit is openly absorbed into the playing with respect 
for an older form of the music as it is taken forward. 

Ultimately, it is absolutely fascinating to hear this music played live as suites 
of interconnected pieces, which was very different from the prevailing mood of most 
live performances in 1966, when clearly defined 'songs' were the usual order of 
things. This ESP - Disk is a window onto Cherry's live performances in Europe, a 
context and openness which was embraced by an audience who were appreciative of 
what innovating musicians such as Cherry were trying to do at that time. 

Don Cherry was a true innovator and his recordings from this period are 
rewarding listens for anyone interested in the genesis of the New Jazz or indeed 
World Music. His Complete Communion and Symphony for Improvisers are essential 
and this CD gives an excellent picture of these musical structures in a live context. 
{Nick Dart) 



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G.F. FITZ-GERALD & LOL COXHILL - ECHOES OF DUNEDEN 



ECHOES OF Dt/yy 




G.F. Fitz-Gerald 
& Lol Coxhill 

THREE FAIRY DMiCV. DUETS 
FUll KLECTRIC GUITAR & 
SOPRANO SAXOPHONE 



^ 



Label: Reel Recordings 

Release date: 2008 

Tracklist: Three Fairy Dances: Fairy Dance; Echoes of Duneden; Elfin Tree 

Personnel: G.F. Fitz-Gerald: electric guitar; Lol Coxhill: soprano saxophone 

Additional information: Recorded at Roxbourgh Place Hall, Edinburgh, September 1975 

This duo appeared on a side long track on one of Coxhill' s early / mid 1970s 
for Virgin's Caroline label, Fleas in Custard. The track, cunningly entitled Duet for 
Soprano Saxophone and Guitar and introduced the then comparatively unknown Fitz- 
gerald to a wider audience, though he had recorded the obscure Mouseproof album 
(now available on CD) in 1971. With the benefit of hindsight it is possible to look 
upon Fitz-Gerald as the forgotten man of improvised guitar. His playing does not 
recognisedly come from a rock or jazz background and his metallic tone and ability to 
hang shimmering electronic backgrounds behind Coxhill' s serpentine soprano pre- 
dates any number of post-punk and post-rock and industrial guitarists. One could 
imagine the likes of Thurston Moore and Lee Ronaldo listening intently and basing 
their own playing templates around Fitzgerald. Fitz-Gerald also appeared solo on the 
Caroline album Guitar Solos 2 in 1976, alongside contributions from Fred Frith, Hans 
Reichel and Derek Bailey. His recorded legacy is small so this release from Reel is a 
very welcome addition. 

Lol Coxhill' s recorded output, and indeed profile, are much greater and his 
playing doesn't disappoint here. The three pieces on the CD sound by turns 
improvised and written. This live recording may be part of a run of performances at 
the Edinburgh Festival, giving the duo time to feel their way into each others' playing. 

The first piece on this 34 minute CD, Fairy Dance, is much shorter than the 
other two. Echoing guitar notes and chirruping soprano give way to longer lines and 
unison repetition and sax overblowing. The guitar may be prepared in some way 
though nothing is mentioned in the sleeve notes. Fitz-Gerald' s tone is metallic and 



79 



glassy and Coxhill provides continuity before a further unison passage with guitar 
more to the fore. The piece ends in a squall of faded feedback. 

Echoes of Duneden once again features explorations of repeated phrases on 
soprano and guitar before a dancing figure from Coxhill and a dialogue that is almost 
a passage of counterpoint with both players using repitition as a prompt to each other. 
One loses count over the years of the various groupings, permutations and types of 
music which Coxhill has involved himself in but this one is certainly productive. 
Coxhill weaves long lines over high end plucking and low end echoes which give the 
illusion of two guitars and produce a wide sound frequency. In a sequence where both 
musicians use echo the duo react intuitively to the complex signals emanating from 
each others' instrument. A busy soundscape made to sound effortless. Fitz-Gerald 
opens new sonic possibilities for the guitar, with broad backdrops and a wide panoply 
of music which stretches the canvas for Coxhill to work above or inside. After a 
sequnce of harmonics the piece ends with gentle plucking and a Coxhill melody 
including bent and slurred notes. 

Elfin Tree commences with plucked clarity from guitar with a meandering sax 
line. Fitz-Gerald dsiplays an excellent grasp of dynamics and there are echoes of jazz 
guitar runs and chords. Coxhill plays long lines interspersed with low end honks 
before a reflective solo over chorded swells from Fitz-Gerald and another section of 
quick unison repeated phrases. A loud section where Coxhill uses echo as Fitz-Gerald 
provides 'industrial' backing leads into a slightly Celtic feel from Coxhill over 
swelling chords and a jet plane ending! 

This is a very welcome and absorbing CD containing a wealth of music from a 
sadly under-recorded pairing. Fitz-Gerald' s playing is very advanced for the time of 
recording and almost certainly more influential than it was ever given credit for. A 
new recording of Fitz-Gerald would be very interesting and it would be fascinating to 
hear this duo again 30 odd years on. Anyone interested in Lol Coxhill' s disparate and 
excellent musical activities should start with the Spectral Soprano CD on Martin 
Davidson's excellent Emanem label, or check his work on Ogun Records. Just branch 
out from there! (Nick Dart) 

HUGH HOPPER - HOPPER TVNITY BOX 

Label: Cuneiform Records 

Release date: 2007 

Tracklist: Hopper Tunity Box; Mmiluv; Gnat Prong; The Lonely Sea and The Sky; Crumble; Lonely 

Woman; Mobile Mobile; Spanish Knee; Oyster Perpetual 

Personnel: Hugh Hopper: Bass; guitar; recorders; soprano sax; percussion with, Richard Brunton: 

guitar; Marc Charig: comet, tenor horn; Elton Dean: alto sax, saxello; Nigel Morris: drums; Frank 

Roberts: electric piano; Dave Stewart: organ, piano, oscillators; Mike Travis: drums; Gary Windo: bass 

clarinet, saxes. 

Additional information: Recorded May to July 1 976 at Mobile Mobile. Originally released by 

Compendium Records of Norway and produced by Mike Dunne and Hugh Hopper. 

This recording would be considered by many as coming from the golden age 
of British jazz/rock when such bands as Nucleus, Hatfield & The North, Isotope, 
Away and of course Soft Machine produced excellent records of a decidedly non- 
American variety of the genre and played concerts to receptive rock audiences. Hugh, 
of course, was the bass guitarist in Soft Machine, providing monolithic bass riffs and 
strong compositions on the albums Two to Six. This CD reissue from 1977 actually 
reinforces what a large part Hugh played in the Soft Machine during his tenure in the 
band. This was his T"^ solo offering after 1984 which was released in 1973 and one of 



80 



the tracks on the former, Miniluv, also surfaces on the latter, albeit in radically 
different format. 

The track Hopper Tunity Box has a bass riff which wouldn't be out of place 
on Softs 4 or 5 which stays with you long after listening and as the title suggests also 
contains quotes from some of Hugh's tunes from the preceding years. The melody is 
played on multi-tracked recorders, giving an almost medieval feel to proceedings. 
Gary Windo's presence is very strong and the track segues into the aforementioned 
Miniluv, also heard on the 1984 album. Hugh's multi-tracked soprano sax is heard to 
great effect before Windo ends the piece. 

Gnat Prong has a Hatfields feel, mainly due to the distinctive presence of the 
great Dave Stewart on keybords and oscillators, a musician whose career should be 
re-evaluated; an excellent writer and on this evidence also interpreter of the music of 
others. The track moves through fast unison and slower atmospheric passages. The 
Lonely Sea and The Sky is the track which could most readily be associated with jazz. 
It could be covered by others as a standard and has a slow almost reverential ballad 
feel, with the brass of Elton Dean and Marc Charig used effectively but sparingly. 
Crumble has a jaunty jazz/funk feel, with the electric piano of Frank Roberts driving 
the riff and Richard Brunton's background funk guitar scratchings accentuating the 
funk. Excellent unison brass blowing on this piece too. 

Lonely Woman is the only piece not written by Hugh, being the famous and 
much covered Ornette Coleman song and long one of Hugh's favourite pieces. 
Although the percussion is looped, the brass players treat the piece reverentially, until 
finally different instruments are used to restate bits of the theme. Superbly 
atmospheric - one can't help thinking that Ornette would love it! 

Mobile Mobile is the sole track not featuring Mike Travis on drums. On this 
track drum duties are taken by Hugh's former Isotope colleague Nigel Morris who 
provides a shimmering percussive backdrop behind Hugh's bass on the initial slow 
section before powering Hugh and Dave Stewart through the quicker tempo section. 
Spanish Knee provides an excellent Elton Dean solo before the CD ends with Oyster 
Perpetual which features Hugh alone on overdubbed basses on a soundscape which 
would not have sounded out of place on 1984 but which ends this set on a cool chill 
out after all the previous activity. 

It's interesting to read Hugh's notes on how the tracks were put together piece 
by piece. Interesting because the tracks sound like genuine back collaberations. As far 
as I know these tracks were not played on the road by a permanet band line up, which 
is a pity as the material deserves to be heard in a concert setting. 

The CD has been superbly packaged by Cuneiform and can be unreservedly 
recommended to all followers of Soft Machine during Hugh's tenure as bassist. An 
excellent and very underrated recording. {Nick Dart) 

MIKE OSBORNE - FORCE OF NATURE 

Label: Reel Recordings 

Release date: 2008 

Tracklist: Ducking & Diving; Journey's End; All Night Long 

Personnel: Mike 'Ossie' Osborne: alto saxophone; Dave Holdsworth: trumpet; Marcio Mattos: bass 

(on Ducking & Diving); Brian Abrahams: drums (on Ducking & Diving); Paul Bridge: bass (on other 

tracks); Tony Marsh: drums (on other tracks). 

Additional information: Ducking & Diving recorded live October 1 980 at Kolner Jazzhaus Festival, 

Koln; other tracks recorded live April 1981 in London. 



This CD features live recordings of two different versions of the Mike 
Osborne Quartet, both including the trumpeter Dave Holdsworth, with differing 
rhythm sections; Marcio Mattos and Brian Abrahams on the track recorded in 
Germany and Paul Bridge and Tony Marsh on the London pieces. 

Mike Osborne's playing was always emotionally powerful and exciting and 
his writing almost invariably showed this. From the 60s to the early 80s he was a 
fixture on the British and European scenes until his playing career was cruelly cut 
short by illness. 

Perhaps the track which most will be familiar with on this set is All Night 
Long. It appears twice in the recording of his Willisau concert on the superb Ogun 
album also entitled All Night Long from 1976. But as opposed to the earlier recording 
where the theme is stated as part of two longer sets of pieces, in this instance it stands 
alone and kicks along at a fast pace with an excellent solo from Osborne and Tony 
Marsh accenting the rhythm as only he can, before a reflective mid section, a highly 
charged solo from Holdsworth, rhythmic exploration from Marsh and return to the 
theme. Superb! 

Ducking and Diving runs the whole gamut of Mike Osborne's live ouvre; brief 
theme statements in unison with the excellent and underated Dave Holdsworth' s 
trumpet; fiery improvisations and solos, together with solos for Holdsworth, arco 
from Mattos and the underlying propulsion of Brian Abrahams' drums. The piece 
runs through changes in tempo (post bop speed to virtual stillness) and dynamics (full 
band steaming to a quiet Holdsworth solo over minimal bass from Mattos), and may 
also contain other separate Osborne themes, as separate titles used to routinely be 
segued into each other in a live context. The concentration required to produce a piece 
as long and strong as this is immense and the audience is carried through a musical 
story incorporating bouncing almost bluesy passages as well as quotes from such 
surprising tunes as The Conga and almost a mimicing of church bells ringing. The 
sheer scale of the music produced by this quartet in a live context is breathtaking and 
all of the elements are folded into a unified whole which doesn't fail to surprise on 
repeated listenings. The interplay between Osborne and Holdsworth reflects a pairing 
which was comfortable to both players and the respect for each other's playing is 
evident throughout. Osborne's alto is ceaselessly searching and inventive and the full 
range of both horns are given reign on the material. An exciting festival performance, 
as evinced by the crowd reaction, and a fine track to explore over time. 

The London tracks are shorter than Ducking and Diving and as such tend 
towards a more structured performance element. Journey' s End starts with a theme 
statement and Holdsworth' s soaring trumpet over busy bass and drums before a 
questing Osborne solo, ably abetted, as ever, by Holdsworth. Paul Bridge is at the 
forefront before the re-entry of both horns, who play together more on the London 
tracks than on the Koln piece where either sat out for periods. 

Mike Osborne's name is mentioned less often nowadays than other perhaps 
more 'fashionable' saxophonists and it's to be hoped that this CD goes some way to 
redressing the balance. A fine release from Reel Recordings. {Nick Dart) 

SUN RA FEATURING PHAROAH SANDERS & BLACK HAROLD - LE SUN 
RA ARKESTRA LIVE AT JUDSON HALL 

Label: Esp-Disk/ Release date: 2009 

Tracklist: Cosmic Interpretation; The Other World; The Second Stop Is Jupiter; The Now Tomorrow; 
Discipline 9; Gods on a Safari; The World Shadow; Rocket Number 9; The Voive of Pan; Dawn Over 
Israel; Space Mates 



82 



Personnel: Sun Ra (Sonny Blount): piano, celeste; Pharoah Sanders: tenor saxophone; Black Harold 
(Harold Murray): flute, log drum; Al Evans: trumpet; Teddy Nance: trombone; Marshall Allen: alto 
saxophone; Pat Patrick: baritone saxophone; Alan Silva & Ronnie Boykms: bass; Clifl" Jarvis & 
.Timmhi Johnson: drums; Art .Tenkms: 'space voice'. All musicians probably also double on percussion. 
Additional information: Recorded in concert at Judson Hall, New York on 3 1"' December 1964 as 
part of the Jazz Composers Guild's Four Days in December. Tracks 1 -5 previously unreleased. 




Former Fletcher Henderson arranger Sun Ra has long been one of the most 
enigmatic and misunderstood figures in jazz and this historically important release 
certainly does nothing to dispel the myth. The music on this disc was recorded as part 
of the Jazz Composers Guild's first and important festival, a festival which included 
bands led by Cecil Taylor, Paul Bley, Bill Dixon and Archie Shepp, as well as Sun 
Ra. Listen and marvel that it was recorded 45 years ago! Ra's catalogue of recordings 
is collosal, many of the earliest being on his own El Saturn label. They are of varying 
quality but an early lesson in independance and self sufficiency. This recording comes 
from relatively near to the start of Ra's catalogue which didn't come to a close until 
the early 1990s and also features an early appearance from the tenor saxophonist 
Pharoah Sanders. Interestingly the stalwart Ra saxophonist John Gilmore does not 
appear as he takes a brief sabbatical. 

This CD is nothing if not eclectic, ranging from free jazz scream ups via quiet, 
tinkling passages to vocalised chants concerning space and inter-planetary travel! 
Five of the tracks are previously unissued and two of these. The Now Tomorrow and 
Discipline 9, are outstanding. The former starts as a slow piano and flute duet. It is 
very stately and includes bowed bass. An instrument sounding like a middle eastern 
taragota also appears from the ensemble. Ra's piano interjections take the piece into a 



83 



more angular direction and the full range of the keyboard is used. Comparisons with 
Cecil Taylor are inevitable. The piece ends quietly before a piano introduction into 
Discipline 9. Imaginative brass scores (harking back to Henderson days) are 
underpinned by piano and Marshall Allen rises above the slow progression. A riff 
commences and the vocals come in - 'We travel the spaceways from planet to planet'. 
The riff subsides to a walking bass and the hint of a funk progression. It's maybe even 
the start of the spacerock / psychedelic future! It lopes along superbly and the horns 
re-enter before a quiet ending with flute to the fore. Even in 1964 this music was 
building on Ra's previous output - quite astonishing and a pre-cursor to about 90 
subsequent recordings! 

The other three unreleased tracks are of much more variable quality and the 
longest, The Other World, contains a ten minute drum sequence which may have been 
excellent visually but is very boring to listen to. Rock drummers would be castigated 
for it! Brass wails at the start of the piece over the barrage of the two drummers, with 
Sanders screaming to the fore and Ra very active. Patrick interjections segue into a 

Sanders solo and Evans trumpet runs before the drum sequence Cosmic 

Interpretation is a short, quiet piano and celeste introduction over bowed bass whilst 
The Second Stop is Jupiter is possibly one of the earliest mentions of outer space in 
jazz! It also features fun vocals. 

The previously issued tracks show a broad range of Ra's writing and musical 
activity. Differing piano styles, brass fanfares, intense ensemble playing dropping to 
slow, contrasting, quiet bowed bass passages. Percussion moves from barrages to 
quiet, tinkling and bells and ranges from supporting to interactive roles. Rocket 
Number 9 sees Sanders to the fore and Dawn Over Israel slows down after the energy 
of the concert with quiet flute from Murray and piano. Murray's flute vocalisations 
are astonishing in The Voice of Pan with Ra's writing for flute and bass outstanding. 
The fact that this CD features unissued Ra pieces makes it important. Ra is 
misunderstood and his output is in need of appraisal. This release ought to be a 
springboard for that. Space is indeed the Place! {Nick Dart) 

PAM AND GARY WINDO - A VANT GARDENERS 







84 



Label: Reel Recordings 

Release date: 2008 

Tracklist: We're On Our Way/Primal Stream (duo); Roarin'; Shepp Heard; Bass Space; 

Frank'n'Myrrh/Incensed (trio); Maiden Stone (quartet) 

Personnel: Pam Windo; piano (all tracks); Gary Windo: tenor saxophone & bass clarinet (all tracks); 

Frank Perry: percussion (on trio tracks); Harry Miller: bass; Louis Moholo: drums (on quartet track) 

Additional information: Duo and quartet tracks recorded live at Maidstone College of Art, autumn 

1976 and trio tracks recorded Highgate, London February 1974. 

This CD features three elements which have not been available to listeners 
through the years: Gary Windo playing in a fully improvised context; an appearance 
on CD by the former Ovary Lodge percussionist and sound sculptor Frank Perry; and 
the piano playing of Pam Windo. The excellent rhythm section of the late bassist 
Harry Miller and drummer Louis Moholo, the staple of so many Ogun recordings is 
also present on the final track. 

Even after a number of plays it is difficult to critique this CD. The recordings 
come from either one or two different concerts and what seems to be a private session 
and the different groupings produce results of differing quality though Pam and Gary 
Windo are present throughout. They also come from a very fertile period of time 
when musical exploration via improvisation was still excitedly moving forward from 
the early explorations of the likes of SME and AMM. Perhaps a clue to the music lies 
in some of the track titles, and indeed the CD title - is there a less reverant side to this 
music? Gary Windo' s own piercing style is evident. His energy is infectious and a 
useful, though maybe obvious comparison on this CD is with the great Peter 
Brotzman. 

Gary Windo is dominant on the duo tracks, with his shrieks and grunts 
verpowering Pam Windo' s clusters, trills and runs in a manic free form duet which 
then moves into a quieter, reflective tenor over low key comping. The second part of 
the duo track, Primal Stream, is just that; a powerful, gruff determined solo from Gary 
Windo, short bursts with periods of silence before ending on longer statements. 

The first of the trio pieces lives up to its title and shows Perry in 
uncharacteristically loud and rumbustious form, with tumbles of percussion and a 
whirler. Pounding piano in upper and lower registers is also heard before the raucous 
introduction of Gary Windo's bluff interjections over Perry's clatterings. The next trio 
piece starts quietly with Perry providing a shifting backdrop for elegant Gary Windo 
and sparse piano. This is the sort of playing more readily associated from Perry - 
cymbal splashes and subtlety. Bass Space, as the title suggests, is a bass clarinet solo 
for Gary Windo. The final trio track is the finest piece of music on the CD, the players 
seemingly having settled into the music. Perry's atmospheric introduction sets the 
piece up with bells, chains and cymbals before leading into big, crashing piano chords 
and Gary Windo screaming before high energy piano runs and even a false ending! 
The quartet piece with Miller and Moholo starts with a blues rhythm and is somewhat 
stilted. Gary Windo blows abstractedly over the top before the piece dissolves into a 
free form discussion. Moholo comes to the forefront and Miller adds arco 
interjections with flowing piano in evidence. 

During this time period many improvisational gigs were played and this CD 
doesn't display any greater accomplishments than many others. It's a curate's egg - 
an excellent piece book-ended by more ordinary fare; an uneven record but one which 
reflects the questing spirit of the times. {Nick Dart) 



85 



JIMMY WOODS SEXTET - CONFLICT 




Label: Original Jazz Classics 
Release Date: 2003 

Tracklist: Conflict; Coming Home; Aim; Apart Together; Look to Your Heart; Pazmuerte 
Personnel: Carmell Jones (trumpet) Jimmy Woods (alto sax) Harold Land (tenor sax) Andrew Hill 
(piano) George Tucker (bass) Elvin Jones (drums) 
Additional Information: Recorded Los Angeles, CA, March 25 & 26, 1 963 



Notable as an early recording date for Andrew Hill and as one of the few 
instances of altoist Jimmy Woods' playing, this is one of those neglected albums that 
would seriously prick up people's ears if it was better known. Not only are the 
musicians all on fine form, but the whole thing has a subtle organic structure to it that 
moves beyond the simplicities of hard-bop blowing vehicles. 

Although still alive and still, apparently, playing local gigs in Anchorage, 
Alaska, of all places. Woods pretty much disappeared off the scene after a small 
number of recordings in the early 60s. Having inherited his parents' real estate 
holdings, it sounds like he hasn't done too badly for himself, so at least his is not 
another one of those jazz musician tales of woe. But still, one can't help thinking what 
might have been if he'd kept on the scene - perhaps if he had moved into free music, 
as his playing, still primarily in a hard-bop bag, has something of the looseness of 
Jackie McLean's work from the same period. As it is, his two dates for Contemporary 



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Records, of which this is the second, are probably the best chance to hear what he 
could do, though he did record as a sideman with Dexter Gordon, among others. 

Woods' tone on alto is at once smooth and piercing, swooping around on the 
fast be-bop runs that one might expect, but eliding and slurring them - or appearing to 
do so - in a way that gives them a much more unpredictable edge. Though not an all- 
star line-up, his band on this date is extremely good: Hill, about to kick-start his own 
series of recordings on Blue Note records, is first-class; trumpeter Carmell Jones adds 
a certain hard bop swagger to proceedings; Harold Land is always good value, though 
he's admittedly somewhat overshadowed by Woods, and not as authoritative as he 
would be several years later with Bobby Hutcherson; George Tucker does what's 
required of him, even if he's not as distinctive a voice as, say, Richard Davis on Hill's 
recordings; and Jones brings bags of latent energy into every strike of his kit. 

I think I actually prefer the alternate take of 'Conflict' to the released version - 
it's less straightforwardly hard-swinging, and works more subtly in its mixture of 
restraint and bursts of more strident playing, with Hill acting as something of an in- 
band conductor, to ensure that everything ebbs and flows nicely. Despite its title, then, 
the piece (on both takes) begins in jaunty fashion, with Hill's sprightly chords 
underlain by Jones' drums, which have a distinct spring in their step - indeed, it 
seems as if the whole band is skipping along on their toes, buoyed along by the music 
so that their feet barely have to touch the ground. Hill's backing seems about to be 
bringing a more solemn tone into Harold Land's opening solo, but soon returns to 
sparser and more jolly chords which suit Land's bebop turn and the bright 
declamations of trumpeter Carmell Jones. Jones momentarily ups the heat and one 
suspects a be-bop blowout might be about to ensure, but solos are kept fairly short on 
this date, and Hills' solo is more urbane. As if to compensate. Woods swoops in, loud, 
slurred, drunken runs as if he can barely keep in control of the bebop lines he clearly 
knows how to handle, firing up to high cries and repeated upper-register flurries. 
Jones' solo doesn't quite burst out as it could do, perhaps due to Hill, whose presence 
seems like something of a restraining influence, though not necessarily in a bad way - 
the track's concision is a nice thing, the soloist forced to make interesting statements 
in the little space they have. Hill prods the direction of the music, laying down well- 
placed chords, or, indeed, leaving spaces where one would expect him to play, while 
Jones is always ready to prod the band a little, to add a little extra heat. 

The album's ballad feature, 'Look to Your Heart' finds Woods as the sole 
horn, and his treatment of the melody is soft and quiet and sweet, almost as if he's 
restraining himself for his solo feature. Hill and Jones, underneath, keep up that 
slightly jaunty pace that we heard on 'Conflict', as if they, too, are just waiting for 
Woods to take off Reaching the end of the melody statement. Woods signals the 
transition with a sudden drop to a rephrased low, then up to some high cries. Hill 
drops out and Woods drops back a little, playing around, testing the waters; a repeated 
declamation brings Hill back in and the heat's back on, repeated high phrases building 
in passion. Hill's solo is already full of the kind of phrasing you hear on his classic 
early Blue Note dates, with something of an edge to it that suggests it could suddenly 
scamper out of control. Woods treats the melody with a certain yearning, there's 
something more than just sweet here - even a touch of desperation? - though the final 
little concluding touch is as lovely as any of Coltrane's final flurries. 

'Pazmuerte' begins in more openly questing fashion, though the initial 
statement is followed by a relaxed and elegant Latin melody. Hill takes things at a 
nice clip for a short solo, with Carmell Jones' trumpet alternating between mute and 
open behind him. The repeated clip-clop of Hill's chords brings in Land, Jones 



87 



perhaps less urgent but the track by now transformed into a piece of energetic hard- 
bop. Woods picks up on the little sudden rise signalling the end of the trumpet solo 
and bursts in with some burning Latin, spending so long on his held notes that he 
almost threatens to break out of the chord structure and play free, dragging the rhj^hm 
section with him. Hill straightens his tie with a flourish, playing around the chords, 
with which he is clearly taken, hammering them home. 

There's plenty more to listen out for - three tracks in between those I've 
described, and three alternate takes which give those which were released a run for 
their money. Really this disc deserves to be held alongside Hill's 'Black Fire' and any 
of those fine early 60s free(ish) hard-bop dates - if Woods had kept a higher profile, it 
probably would have. As it is, those who approach it as an obscure item in Hill or 
Elvin Jones' discographies should realise that it's much more than a curiosity item. 
Well worth tracking down while it's still available. (David Grundy) 



GIG REVIEWS 

• THE CONVERGENCE QUARTET 

Churchill College, Cambridge (May 2009) 

• ORNETTE COLEMAN/ MASTER MUSICIANS OF JAJOUKA 

Royal Festival Hall, London (June 2009) 

• JAZZ A VIENNE 2009 

Various Venues, Vienne, France (June/July 2009) 

THE CONVERGENCE QUARTET 

Churchill College Recital Room, Cambridge, Saturday 2"" May 2009 

A co-operative, trans-Atlantic group whose previous visit to the UK resulted 
in a fine album (this tour also involved a recording session, so keep your eyes peeled 
for future developments), the Convergence Quartet boast a wealth of combined 
experience: Taylor Ho Bynum's immersion in the complex musical worlds of 
Anthony Braxton, Harris Eistenstadt's fine work as a leader, and Alexander Hawkins' 
and Dominic Lash's involvement in the UK improv scene. As might be expected then, 
they played a fascinatingly varied programme, but there was also a real sense of a 
group identity - perhaps cemented by the fact that this gig came towards the end of a 
week spent touring the UK. 

The concert began with Lash and his woody, twangy 'improv bass', Eisenstadt 
inquisitively testing the waters alongside. A few minutes in, and Bynum began to play 
a muted and moody melody with the softest of touches, continually cycling back to 
the original theme as the piece developed, rather in the manner of Miles Davis' 
'Nefertiti'; it certainly gave an unusual structure which would prove to be typical of 
the group's atypical ability to create something diverse but not perversely scatter- 
brained, to balance composition and improvisation, to create new configurations and 
patterns afresh, at will. 

Formal experimentation was perhaps most notably attempted about half-way 
through, with a performance of Dom Lash's piece 'Representations', in what was 
announced as its 15* configuration (previous performances have included a rather fine 
one at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music festival, available as a free download on 
Lash's Last FM page). While its restraints (involving much page-shuffling and stern 



88 



concentration, and afterwards described by Hawkins as akin to Russian roulette!) 
could potentially have zapped some of the spark from the group, on this occasion they 
provoked a degree of interaction that was quite different from the improvisations on 
the composed pieces, but no less fascinating. Hand signals led to transitions between 
sections or signalled duets, trios, and whole group configurations, different musical 
events occurring on different planes - thus, a series of vaguely Messiaen-like chords 
carried on underneath several other switches from the rest of the group (though this 
never felt like a changing background, an accompaniment to the piano). All this 
resulted in a kind of textural overlapping which meant that the piece, which might 
otherwise have seemed rather austerely episodic, instead seemed purposeful and 
knife-edged poised. It was fascinating indeed to watch musical minds at this level of 
concentration, to see if the risks taken paid off 

A Leroy Jenkins piece dedicated to Albert Ayler emerged in heartfelt quiet, 
cornet and trumpet delicate with their unison melody. The band certainly have an ear 
for not often-heard compositions: it's nice to hear this legacy of the underrated jazz 
masters getting its due, rather than endless re-hashings of 1930s popular songs and 
jazz standards. And they proved this once again by performing Tony Oxley's 
'Crossings', which juxtaposed full-throttle free jazz squall, full-band cluster climaxes, 
bowed drone tones, and a pretty melody whose appeal was illustrated when Bynum 
spontaneously whistled along to Hawkins' rendition. 

There was much to notice about the individual players. Bynum plays his 
cornet loud (those high, brash tones!) and with some style too - by which I mean to 
suggest, not that he demonstrates a polished virtuosity (though virtuosity it is), but 
rather, that his playing locates him in the great tradition of 'bad-taste' jazz trumpet, 
with cartoon parps (which, perhaps not entirely due to coincidence, require a lip 
position which gives him the temporary appearance of Donald Duck) and 'distortion' 
through the use of an 'on-off mute effect. Indeed, he has rather a lot of these tricks up 
his sleeve - including pouring water down the mouth of his flugelhorn, which gushed 
out in irregular spasms as he played (though it didn't really seem to effect the sound 
of the instrument), and using a 'jazz hat' as a mute. But they never really felt like 
'tricks' - sure, he does them because he can (and what's wrong with a bit of 
showmanship?) but he also does them because they make musical sense, and they 
never distract from the overall direction of the particular piece in which they are 
employed. This was best demonstrated towards the end of a piece where Bynum 
circular breathed to sustain a one-note drone. Many players, I'm sure, would have 
employed it to generate applause in their solo (nothing like that sort of display to get 
listeners excited) but - proof that Bynum didn't want to be the flashy focus - it ended 
up being probably the quietest element in the texture, occasionally rising in volume to 
create odd harmonisings with the bass as things were dominated by sprightly piano. 

Hawkins seems to get better every time I see him live; every solo he took 
tonight was a journey, or, if you prefer, a well-told short story. They would begin as 
jazz explorations, or even boogie-woogie-flavoured romps, before whipping 
themselves up to a frenzy of clanging clusters, rolling glissandi, and fast-paced, 
dissonant runs, like a dancer tripping over their feet as the speed of their performance 
spins out of control. This was both tremendously exciting and the consequence of a 
logical development -jazz taken to the edge and then pushed over, because there 
really was no where else to go - and it was always - somehow - contained within the 
framework of a two or three minute showcase. 

The afore-mentioned 'Representations' demonstrated Lash's skills as a 
composer, an organiser of sounds, and he proved equally capable slotting in with 



Eisenstadt to provide tight grooves on the jazzier numbers, though the most notable 
moments in his performance were when he made full use of his instrument's range, 
bowing behind the strings, teasing out harmonics, changing the whole texture of a 
piece with sensitive arco work. 

Eisenstadt is not the most flashy drummer, but a vital part of the Quartet's 
musical identity: he has a tendency to go for the slightly off-kilter groove, loud, 
chunky, thumping beats and cymbal crashes just past the point you'd expect them to 
occur. He's a sensitive ballad player as well, mallets making cymbals sigh, barely 
there as the group trod more tender lines; and he proved his improv credentials in the 
freer passages, with moments of perfect quick-thinking, most notably when he 
followed two taps on the snare with two on cymbal, almost as if he was in dialogue 
with himself as well as with the other musicians. A small moment, easy to miss with 
all the other activity that was going on around it; there were probably many more of a 
similar kind which I failed to notice, indicating the music's real fullness and richness. 

The audience was not particularly large, but clearly appreciative, and so the 
Quartet finished with an encore: a slice of South-African good humour via Dudu 
Pukwana. Bynum inserted a neatly-disguised 'Happy Birthday' quotation into his 
muted solo in honour of the pianist (incidentally, who knew that Mr Bynum was such 
a good SA jazz player?), and everything ended with a series of churchy and 
completely satisfying chords, bass and piano linking tones and the last reverberations 
of the piano's sustain pedal fading away with an effect that almost sounded electronic, 
merging with the short, satisfied sigh of a listener in the audience to perfectly 
satisfying effect. (David Grundy) 

ORNETTE COLEMAN/ MASTER MUSICIANS OF JAJOUKA 
Meltdown Festival- Royal Festival Hall, London, Sunday 21st June 2009 

A curious beast, the Meltdown Festival has been going for a couple of years 
now. Over a week-long period, a famous musician of some sort is invited to 'curate' a 
series of concerts taking place in the Southbank Centre; the purported aim is to 
encourage collaboration and experimentation, to bring in big-name draws but to 
encourage them to try out something a little different. 

One suspects that being appointed 'curator' may have been something of a 
token gesture - a marketing opportunity, to reach out to a certain fan-base, more than 
an appointment made in order to further genuine artistic exploration. That said, 
legendary as he is in certain circles, Ornette Coleman is not necessarily the most 
marketable, or bankable, of artists, and the announcement of his curatorship this year 
raised hopes - or at least, more than the usual amount of curiosity. The presence of 
Moby and Yo La Tengo on the week-long bill was not a good sign, and there was 
something of a sense of opportunities missed - for instance, it might have been nice to 
have an evening dedicated to Ornette' s large-scale compositions - 'Forms and Sounds 
for String Quartet', 'Skies of America', and the like - or to have brought in some of 
the European free players (who were shoehorned off into a single night: the trio of 
Evan Parker, Marc Ribot and Han Bennink) to generate some creative tension and to 
juxtapose quite different approaches, to emphasise how much Ornette' s music was a 
move away from previous traditions and how it influenced new lineages, to bring the 
root into contact with some of its furthest-flung branches. Nonetheless, James Blood 
Ulmer, the Liberation Music Orchestra and The Roots (joined on this occasion by 
David Murray and by veteran saxophonist Andy Hamilton, in a tribute to Fela Kuti) 



90 



made up for the commercial concessions, and Ornette himself seemed to revel in the 
opportunities provided, appearing onstage most nights to jam with the various acts 

As on most days, there were free performances clustered around the main 
event. The location for these, the Free Stage, could be found in front of an array of 
beanbags and trendy stools, tucked away in a little comer among the gleaming, light- 
filled spaces of the Festival Hall. On this particular occasion - the last day of the 
festival- it witnessed a lengthy improvisational experiment by a group led by 
Leafcutter John, in which the musicians responded to graphic-score-type cues, created 
from audience suggestions. It went on way too long, and the tendency of the 'rhythm 
section' to try and play like a jazz rhythm section meant that there were moments 
which got dangerously close to noodling and dull groove-riding; that said, the 
presence of a number of stringed instruments (electric violin, cello and bass) was a 
nice textural combination, perhaps shown off to best effect in a section entitled 
'Peking Opera', and there was some extremely fine playing, on clarinet and 
saxophones, from Mr Shabaka Hutchings, a young player who's been cropping up in 
various improvisational contexts recently, and who, on this showing, has some very 
interesting things to say on his instruments. Soaked in sweat at the end, the sheer 
effort he put into his performance even while others seemed to be coasting was 
exemplary, and his brief nudging of the music into bona-fide free-jazz territory 
provided the best moments of the performance. 

The Master Musicians of Jajouka, who had been performing free shows 
around the Southbank Centre all week, and who had joined Ornette' s band on- stage 
for one number the previous Friday, performed a half-hour set. Divided equally 
between drummers and reed players, their music came out as blocks of rhythmic 
unison, leader Bachir Atta playing phrases which the other players closely followed, 
slight delays between each line giving the effect of a Reichian pulse movement. It did 
feel as though the music lost something from the context, and the awkward clap-along 
which ensued when one drummer took to the front of the stage and performed a semi- 
dance heightened this even more: this music feels like it was made either for more 
open, less formal public spaces, with room for dancing or squatting or standing, and 
the physical reaction it evinced was forcibly restrained by the western concert-hall 
setting. 

This was music which settled on one idea and ran with it, with little variation 
besides the abrupt song-transitions, which Atta would signal by playing a new 
melody. The focus, then, is not western, progression-oriented forms, and something of 
this comes through in Ornette' s own playing, such as the lengthy improvisations on 
'Chappaqua Suite', where the unfolding of ideas on a similar plane is not about 
building up to emotional climaxes, as the Coltrane-tradition of saxophone players in 
particular emphasise (though Coltrane himself tended to reach that peak of intensity 
and stay there, more than building up or building down), but about the constant stream 
of ideas within particular parameters which are open to change but which are not 
under the force oi having to change. 

The festival itself, with its proclaimed desire to mix artists and encourage new 
collaborations, risked being a 'melting-pot' in name only - collaborations that were 
occasional, polite, and something of a formality. But it actually worked here, as 
Ornette' s current band - a quartet with electric bassist Al McDowell (playing in the 
instrument's high register and essentially filling the role of guitarist (rather too 
politely, it must be said - James Blood Ulmer, who also played the Festival, would 
surely have been the better choice)), acoustic bassist Tony Falanga, and Deonardo 
Coleman on drums - ran through their usual setlist with their customary brevity 



91 



(songs tend to run no more than five minutes), but then adapted to the presence of a 
number of guests. 

The first of these, Baaba Maal, strolled on stage for just one number, a ballad, 
and his powerful voice lifted up in counter-melodic ecstasy to Ornette's saxophone, 
though his contribution remained rather limited, as he seemed to be trying to work out 
how to fit into what was already a fine combination. Flea, best known as the bassist 
from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, was the main advertised guest, and there was much 
speculation before hand as to how he was going to fit in, but he'd clearly learnt the 
music, fitting straight into a difficult unison melody and generally providing 
understanding melodic patterning to go alongside McDowell and Falanga (though the 
sound mix was at fault here, with the electric bass mixed up way too high, nearly 
drowning out McDowell and making a mockery of Ornette's core group philosophy, 
of a band all pursuing their own separate but complementary melodic strains). 

After an hour or so, the Master Musicians once more took to the stage for a 
jam with the band, and, while at first the rhythm section seemed to find it a little hard 
to fit in, once Ornette started playing that became pretty much irrelevant, as his 
burning alto lifted over the two bands playing behind him, so that they became a wash 
of colour, a wall of sound, psychedelic indeed. 

Applause was rapturous (perhaps a little too rapturous - as always at these 
occasions, it seems that the audience is willing to cheer anything to the rafters, 
including false starts), and the final number of the evening found Charlie Haden, lit 
mysteriously in shadow, joining Ornette and his son for a trio version of the inevitable 
'Lonely Woman'. While one couldn't say that Ornette was exactly taking it easy 
through the rest of the concert, this seemed to be the most challenging context he'd 
found himself in so far, and it was a good chance to hear his improvisational thinking 
in a less cluttered context. Deonardo's rhythmic touch can be a little heavy-handed at 
times, and he seemed to realise this, sitting out for long periods as the two old men 
duetted. Ornette's playing was gleamingly melodic as ever, and Haden' s resonant 
plucking of course hearkened back to 'The Shape of Jazz to Come' performance, but 
his tendency to go off into folky Americana melodic noodlings did seem to run 
contrary to Ornette's more carefully- shaped directions. That said, it was a nice way to 
cap off what was a fine evening: a fitting climax to a festival which, on this evidence, 
and according to reports from the performances which led up to it, seems to have 
transcended the hype which might have proved its downfall. (David Grundy) 

JAZZ A VIENNE 2009 

Various Venues, 27'" June - 10* July 2009 




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Arriving on the evening of 29th June, I missed the main gig, a double bill by 
big bands led by Gil Evans' associate Laurent Cugny and the American Jason 
Lindner, the latter being particularly well-received by those I met who were at the 
concert. The festival therefore started for me with the wonderful Zozophonic 
Orchestra, who sounded like archaic country blues with slide guitar meeting Gerry 
Mulligan. The charismatic leader, guitarist and singer who went by the name of 
"Manouche" sang a range of standards such as "Trouble in mind" and "Stormy 
Weather " and their set remained one of the most memorable of the festival at the 
scene de Cybele. The following Fred Nardin/ Jon Boutellier quartet were pretty good 
too. 

The first main concert in the Theatre Antique was given over totally to Martial 
Solal and, although only half full, the audience that had assembled was very partisan. 
However, the set opened with Solal's specially commissioned composition for six 
pianists with the Moutin Brothers playing bass and drums. The music consisted on 
written statements for the six keyboards interspersed with a solo feature for each 
musician, none of whom other than Solal seemed to have much identity, and the 
fragmentary nature of this work left everyone hoping that the following duet with the 
91 -year old Hank Jones would be better. Unfortunately, the Moutins seemed 
inappropriate for Jones' clear, concise improvised lines and Solal's angular 
interjections sat uncomfortably with the older musician's more orthodox approach. 
The repertoire included a host of hackneyed standards like "Tea for two" and "Blue 
Monk" and the failure of Solal to let Jones solo without interference created a muddle 
rather than a duet between two master musicians. After this, Solal's Dodectet took the 
stage with the strings from the Orchestre de L' Opera de Lyon in a programme of 
Solal's more classical flavoured work, which took its cues from Serialist composers, 
with a lack of either melody or thematic material, let alone swing, that eventually 
cleared the venue of those that had remained. Solal's daughter sang in a fashion not 
dissimilar to Norman Winstone. All in all, it was a pretty woeful experience and let 
me reluctant to go on to the club to listen to more music. 

The following afternoon's concert by the Cine Classics Band featured a wealth 
of Disney and other film tunes before the evening's gig with Dave Sanborn and 
George Duke / Chaka Khan. Sanborn proved to be hugely effective and performed a 
set that payed homage to Ray Charles, Fathead Newman and Hank Crawford as well 
as old chestnuts such as "Basin Street Blues" and "St. Louis Blues" (in an adaptation 
of the Gil Evans score) and his band included several horns as well as Gene Lake's 
drums and Ricky Peterson's keyboards. After the previous evening's debacle, this was 
more in keeping with what jazz is about and, as a live experience, much removed 
from his studio work. Ditto George Duke's trio, which truly burned behind singer 
Chaka Khan, who proved far more adapt at jazz that you would have appreciated, 
even if she had a tendency to reach for the higher ranges from time to time. There was 
clearly a great deal of chemistry between Duke and the flirtatious Khan and their set 
was thoroughly enjoyable. However, the highlight of the evening was Duke's 
performance of a stomping blues that was so good you didn't want it to stop. Earlier 
in the day, the French soul group "Laome" had entertained the crowds on the Cybele 
stage with their collection of three talented singers and infectious grooves. The day 
for me concluded with drummer Anne Paceo's trio who included a piano and bass in 
the line up. This music was much too similar to Brad Mehldau's trio and it was 
difficult to retain interest after a handful of numbers. 

The third day at the festival saw the Garfield High School Jazz Band take the 
stage in a programme of Ellington material but a sudden and violent rain storm meant 



93 



that this excellent big band had to leave the stage and all subsequent concerts were 
cancelled. This didn't bode well for the concert at the main venue where Roy 
Hargrove was to lead his big band for the first half and then return with his Funk / 
Rap outfit "RH Factor" for the second. The weather cleared up and Hargrove led his 
orchestra through a brilliant set that recalled recent bands such as Charles Tolliver's, 
but was not averse to tipping their hat to earlier swing bands and Dizzy Gillespie's 
wonderful group. Wearing a light grey suit, a pair of red and white Nike trainers and 
matching bow tie and a trilby, Hargrove seems to be reinventing himself as a jazz 
equivalent of Kanye West. The band played with brio and attitude. This was one of 
the festival highlights, especially when the fabulous jazz singer Roberta Gamabarini 
sang a couple of numbers. Almost as enjoyable was RH Factor although I wasn't 
quite as struck on the rapper MC Solaar as the brilliant girl singer who remained un- 
credited in all of the festival brochures. 

The next day I caught the strange Plan B 4Tet in the scene de Cybele and 
found the line up of accordion, clarinet, double bass and drums playing a kind of 
reggae-fied klezmer music not to my taste. The Brazilian-themed evening was a total 
non-event, with the vocal group "Trio Esperanca" leaving no impression and the 
following Gilberto Gil being nothing other than bland pop. The day was salvaged by 
catching guitarist Will Bernard's trio with organist Will Blades and drummer Simon 
Lott smoking in the Club de Minuit: this would have pleased all fans of the recent 
John Scofield / MMW collaborations. For me, this is exactly the kind of group that 
typifies the difference between American and European groups and is indicative of 
the manner in which the former have an ability to truly go for the throat with no holds 
barred swinging. Like many American musicians, they can take the music right 
outside but the groove is the main thing and this is never sacrificed. Everyone at this 
gig went home happy and I was pleased to meet up with the leader afterwards who 
informed me that this group will be touring the UK in August. I would wholly 
recommend their appearances. This was another highlight of the festival. 

On Saturday, I caught the Turkish / Italian pianist Murat Ozturk playing a solo 
recital at the museum across the river in St. Romain-en-gal. His opening number 
sounded like one of the most tranquil episodes of Keith Jarrett's Koln Concert and an 
abstract interpretation of "Darn that dream" intrigued but his tendency for 
introspection - which even saw "C-Jam Blues" build up to an anticlimax - soon 
bored. Indeed, he made Tord Gustavesen sound like Jerry Lee Lewis in the manner in 
which he tried to avoid excitement. Despite the enthusiasm of one of the piano- 
teachers at the workshop, Ozturk seemed indicative of what I feel is a negative 
influence in jazz piano. I regret that I am not enthusiastic about the current style of 
piano playing. 

By contrast, the evening in the Theatre Antique was dedicated to the blues and 
the evening opened up with the personable French harmonica player Jean- Jacques 
Milteau who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jack Hargreaves of "Out of town" 
fame. Agreeable as his set was, Joe Louis Walkers cranked things up to a higher level 
with a feisty set only to be followed by Lucky Peterson's group that saw the leader 
largely swap his guitar for a Hammond B3. He announced that it would be largely a 
jazz gig and, having worked the audience up with a rendition of "I can't stand the 
rain," there were little complaints from the audience. Peterson is a hugely engaging 
performer and a great entertainer. I thought that his set, which continued well in to the 
early hours of the morning, was brilliant and it was apparent that he was enjoying 
himself so much too that he didn't wish to leave earlier. The repertoire took on a 
whole host of favourites from soul numbers to Horace Silver and Robert Johnson. 



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If you want any proof of Blue Note's demise as a credible jazz label then their 
artist Raul Midon's opening set on Sunday was proof Playing solo guitar and singing, 
this was folk-pop music and whilst obviously appealing to the audience, was a bit 
tame in my estimation. More to my liking was the group SMV which saw three bass 
guitar titans in the form of Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten take to 
the stage accompanied by a keyboard player and drummer. On paper, this could have 
been a recipe for disaster, but the attention to writing served to ensure that this concert 
was musically rewarding and hugely entertaining. Miller was the star of the show and 
I suspect that it was his craftsmanship that ensured this was such a success. Homage 
was made to the late Michael Jackson with renditions of "Human nature" and "Beat 
if, demonstrating that his music is probably held in much higher esteem by musicians 
than the jazz audience. Victor Wooten' s bass was a new experience for me and I 
thought that he was easily the equal of the other two. Jazz as entertainment, maybe, 
but who is complaining if the results are as good as this? 

If anything, the Monday was even worse than the Brazilian night. The 
afternoon had been promising with the guitar-led group "Rencontre" but I missed 
most of singer Yael Naim' s set dedicated to the music of Joni Mitchellm, which 
featured the flugelhorn of Stephane Belmondo as I was playing with a group from one 
of the workshops. Her set was followed by that of the smarmy singer Seal who 
guaranteed the biggest audience of the festival and the wrath of the local paper "Le 
Dauphine" which described his music as "soul music without a soul." The difference 
between Seal's music and the jazz which made up most of the festival was immense 
and the lack of any real music in this gig warranted the wrath of the jazz purists. I 
didn't even think that he had that great a voice either - maybe this is something that 
has been fabricated in the studio. It was plastic music for people with cloth ears. 
Again, the day was rescued at the Club de Minuit where people looking for proper 
music could hear Nasheet Waits' "Equality," featuring Stanley Cowell, Tarus Mateen 
and Logan Richardson on alto. This pushed contemporary jazz to its boundaries with 
improvisations that frequently kicked away the bar lines and structure of the music in 
some of the fastest and most furious time / no changes jazz I have heard. Mateen and 
Waits are joined at the hip as a rhythm team and Cowell was immense at the piano, 
occasionally distorting the sound of the grand piano through his lap top. Logan 
Richardson is yet another name to look out for and his cool, acidic playing fitted 
perfectly in place with this wondrous music. Again, proof, if needed, that a gulf does 
still exist between jazz in Europe and the States. Personally, I didn't feel that the 
much-vaunted Martial Solal was in the same league as Stanley Cowell. 

Poor weather again marred the free gigs in the Scene de Cybele. The Big Band 
de Savoie delivered a great set that included some music by Mingus but the 
abandoning of the Jazz School Studio band set by another American college band 
disappointed many fans like myself who find these groups to be of an exceptionally 
high standard. In the evening, singer Kevin Mahogany played the first half of the 
evening in a set that was clearly influenced by the repertoire from his home town of 
Kansas City. The coupling with singer Kathy Kosins proved an excellent foil and the 
band, billed as the "Godfathers of Groove" (Red Holloway on tenor, Grant Green Jr 
on guitar, Reuben Wilson on organ and Bernard "Pretty" Purdie on drums) were 
great. It was disappointing to see that they had no CDs of this line up on sale and their 
concert was particularly good. Fans of the music of Jimmy Rushing and Joe Williams 
would have been particularly pleased. A "big thumbs-up" is also due to Red 
Holloway, not a name heard too often but someone from an earlier generation of 
players who seemed to deliver some great solos with consummate ease that is missing 



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from many of today's jazz wannabees. 

This set was followed by opera singer Barbara Hendricks' concert with the 
flat-pack, ready-to-assemble Magnus Lindgren quartet. Dressed in black, Hendricks 
sported a demeanour that suggested her evening of "singing the blues" would be 
serious affair. Unfortunately, she had no aptitude for jazz and failed to reign in the 
operatic tendencies so that the music was at once dreadful and unintentionally comic. 
The results were so shocking that it beggared belief Luckily, Esperanza Spalding's 
quartet in the Club de Minuit then played until early into the morning that was so 
spell-binding that the earlier events were quickly forgotten. A fantastic bassist as well 
as singer, this was the most exciting gig of the whole festival and the rapturous 
applause that greeted her final number was totally deserved. 

On the Wednesday, the Truro College Jazz band flew the flag for British jazz 
and continued to deliver a set of polished original arrangements that set them apart 
from their American counterparts and offered something completely different from a 
medium - sized big band. The warm response to their concert was wholly deserved - 
someone should get the word out in the UK just how good this band is. 

Again, I missed the first half of the concert in the Theatre Antique due to the 
fact that I was struggling elsewhere in a band from the workshop, but the combination 
of Dianne Reeves, Lizz Wright, Angelique Kidjo and "Simone," in a tribute to the 
latter' s mother, Nina, was explosive. Backed by Nina Simone' s original band, all four 
singers were superb but Lizz Wright was exceptional. Dianne Reeves clearly 
demonstrated why she remains the greatest female singer on the current jazz scene 
whilst the Beneniose singer Angelique Kidjo added a more esoteric approach 
provided a welcome contrast. This was another brilliant evening. The night concluded 
with Blue Note recording artist pianist Aaron Parks' trio with Ben Street on bass and 
Ted Poor on drums. Still only 25 years old, the music initially seemed a little tame but 
the bass and drums helped kick the music along. Again, I could not help thinking 
about the similarity with Brad Mehldau's approach and whilst Parks does seem to be a 
slightly more rugged performer, you couldn't help thinking that there are plenty of 
other pianists out there in the world of jazz with a more robust approach to the music 
who are probably more deserving of the attention. 

My final day at the festival saw me catching up with Herve Sellin's Tentet, 
fronted by the pianist and composer and including a five piece front line of horns plus 
vibes and rhythm. Whilst clearly influenced by Wynton Marsalis, Hellin served his 
apprenticeship with Johnny Griffin and led his group through a set that recalled the 
work for larger ensembles by Stan Tracey. This was about the only straight- ahead / 
hard bop group that played a Vienne this year and is perhaps indicative of the 
lessening hold on the music as a whole. Well written and executed and always 
swinging, I must feel that this band sounded like it had gate-crashed its own party. 

Sellin's group was followed by the bi-annual visit of Wynton Marsalis and the 
LCJO. Perhaps the frequency of the visit accounted for the indifferent size of the 
audience or maybe they were hip to the fact that this band now seems increasingly 
irrelevant. The best moments were in Ted Nash's scores dedicated to painters Matisse 
and Jackson Pollock - the latter clearly written to sound like the Ornette Coleman 
group of the late fifties despite the fact that Pollock was actually a Trad fan. These 
scores were great but Marsalis' writing is, at best, indifferent - rather like sub- 
standard Ellington. A rendition of Fletcher Henderson's arrangement of Ravel's 
"Bolero" was ragged. The LCJO is an odd beast for there are repertory bands that play 
the older material far more effectively whereas the new compositions are nowhere as 
near as bold as those being written by the likes of Maria Schneider, Bob Brookeyer, 



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John Hollenbeck, Michael Mossman , etc that remain more representative of where 
jazz is as the second decade of the 21st Century approaches. As a consequence, this 
was a somewhat muted ending to the main theatre for me this years and I regret that 
the need to catch the early train the next day meant that I didn't catch all of the set by 
Baptiste Trotignan with Mark Turner, Jeremy Pelt and Eric Harland: what I caught of 
the first half sounded extremely good. 

LINKS 

Musicians' Websites 

• Zozophonic Orchestra: www.zozophonic.COnn 

• Murat Ozturk: www.murat-ozturk.com 

• Will Barnard: www.willbarnard.com 

Youtube Footage of Performances from Festival Jazz a Vienne 2009 

• George Duke Trio With Chaka Khan: Take the 'A' Train (Live, Festival Jazz a 
Vienne 2009): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8PCknkgkqE 

• Lucky Peterson: I Can't Stand the Rain (Live, Festival Jazz a Vienne 2009): 
http: //www. youtube. conn/watch?v=9h5DcFM70n4 

• Trio Esperan^a: Water of March (Live, Festival Jazz a Vienne 2009): http:// 
www.youtube.conn/watch?v=od3uOQJ4uFk 

• Kevin Mahogany : Since I Fell For You (Live, Festival Jazz a Vienne 2009): 
http: //www. youtube. conn/watch?v=q5ZpUZnkiHI 

• Esperanza Spaulding (Live, Festival Jazz a Vienne 2009): 
http: //www. youtube. conn/watch?v=TKEI3bOU7iO 

(Ian Thumwood) 

List of Contributors 

Nick Dart co-runs Hi4Head Records, which was founded in 2002 "to issue music of 
an enduring quality across a number of genres - music that deserves to be out there," 
and has released performances by Trevor Watts, John Stevens and others. 
David Grundy is a recent graduate of Cambridge University, where he presented 
'One Step Beyond', a jazz/experimental music radio show, for three years. He has 
also performed solo and with The Cambridge Free Improvisation Society. 
Sandy Kindness is a member of I-C-E (the Improvising Clarinet Ensemble) and the 
trio Kindness/ May/ Lash (with percussionist Paul May and bassist Dominic Lash). 
Oscar Lomas is a London-based saxophonist, flautist, bassoonist and bass 
clarinettist, whose past and present projects have included ArkLove, STEK and The 
Cambridge Free Improvisation Society. 

Ian Thumwood, a keen football fan, birdwatcher and amateur pianist, has an 
extensive knowledge of the history and practice of jazz. 



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Musicians Featured on 'Second Journey' 

Dennis Bathory-Kitsz is a composer, author, editor, teacher, and technologist. He is 
engaged in the advancement of arts and technology from both a humanist and 
experimental perspective. An independent composer with 970 compositions, more 
than 170 commissions and over 250 North American, European and Australian 
premiers and installations, his compositional styles range from cabaret and vaudeville 
through to experimental/ avant-garde, extended voice, multimedia, sound 
environment/ soundscape, performance art, and computer and tape works. His website 
is: http://maltedmedia.com/people/bathory . 

Peter Breslin is a percussionist, pianist, composer and teacher who has performed 
extensively on the east coast and in the southwest. He studied drums with Andrew 
Cyrille in New York and piano with Shirley Ling in Philadelphia. In northern New 
Mexico, he has performed on piano in several large ensemble concerts of original 
composed and improvised music, as well as appeared on drums with a variety of 
groups. Currently, Breslin is an artist-in-residence with the Santa Fe Opera's Student 
Produced Opera Program, and writes on the arts for The Santa Fe Reporter. 
http://peterbreslin.blogspot.com . 

J.A. Deane sometimes performs on trombone, but more often on synthesizers and 
live, real-time sampler. He appeared on the pioneering 1985 live recording of 'Cobra' 
by John Zorn. He has recorded with Jon Hassell, and has performed extensively with 
Butch Morris. Since 1997 he has led the Out of Context ensemble which further 
explores the language of conduction developed by Butch Morris. Out of Context has 
released CDs on the Zerx and High Mayhem record labels based out of Santa Fe, NM 
and continues to explore large ensemble improvisation. 

David Grundy edits this magazine. Music-wise, he performs solo (various solo 
recordings can be found at http://2009solos.multiply.com ) and with the Cambridge 
Free Improvisation Society ( http://cambridgeimprovisation.wordpress.com y 

Lycanthrope Oboe (Jacken Waters) is the solo project of Jacken Waters (who has 
performed as part of Desdemona Lives, Sleepwalk Something, and the Cambridge 
Free Improvisation Society, among others). The music tends to be centred around the 
use of layered, manipulated guitar, built up slowly ('songs' tend to last 10 to 20 
minutes) using washes of sound, or a single riff used as a basis to improvise around. 
Jacken co-runs Petula records http://petularecords.wordpress.com 

Massimo Magee is a multi-instrumentalist from Brisbane, Australia. He has had 
tracks featured on the freejazz.org sampler and participated in the Cadavre Esquis 
collaborative project associated with the site. Live, he has performed with Lee Noyes 
and Amos Manne. Recordings are regularly released on his blog. Array Music: http:// 
arraymu sic, wordpre ss . com/ 

Lee Noyes, who is based in Dunedin, New Zealand, can be found playing acoustic 
and electric guitars, drums, percussion, live sampling and electronics, live and on CD 
and download releases in collaboration with Barry Chabala, Massimo Magee, Phil 
Hargreaves and Bruno Duplant. More information can be found at his website: http:// 
my space . com/leenoyes . 



Stek are Robert van Stekelenberg (piano), Tim Clark (double bass), Oscar Lomas 
(reeds) and Hubert Spall (reeds). Drawing on the innovations of Paul Bley, Evan 
Parker, Peter Brotzmann, Ornette Coleman and early solo Keith Jarrett, STEK are a 
free improvising group that investigate ways of affecting change in the freely 
improvised situation without determining pitches. 'Compositions' generally involve 
stipulations as to how the leadership is passed around, changing moods and 
sequences of combinations of instruments to create different musical environments. 
The musicians all live in London and play in other contexts, including jazz, blues, 
metal, contemporary classical and ambient. 

Parallax are: Stian Omenas (trumpet, percussion). Are Lothe Kolbeinsen (guitar), 
prepared guitar) and Ulrik Ibsen Thorsrud (drums, percussion). This Norwegian trio 
plays attentive and playful improvised music with references as diverse as traditional 
jazz and Asian music, as well as abstract soundscapes. Rustling, crackling, stealthily 
winding and melodic, the music moves effortlessly from a mere whisper to intensely 
suggestive stretches of rhythmic improvising. The music has been compared to haiku 
poetry; atmospheric, immediate and surprising, http://myspace.com/parallaximpro 



With thanks to: John Russell, Helen Petts, ESP Disk, Hi4Head Records, Reel 
Recordings, Porter Records, Quiet Design, Weasel Walter. Special thanks to the 
musicians who contributed their recordings and time to the 'second journey' album.